Star Wars: Rebels

I have just watched the last episode of Star Wars: Rebels.

So Mickey the Rat said: No, the rebellion hadn’t started the way it was described in “The Force Unleashed and Kyle Katarn did not steal Death Star plans [meaning that I went through all that trouble of enduring the crappy graphics of Dark Forces in the first level of the game for nothing :D ] (and other crap too) and what did we get in return?! Another Saturday morning cartoon (the other being The Clone Wars), of course!

Somehow, I hoped that Star Wars: Rebels would be a real series with real actors about a realistic rebel cell :o

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Star Wars is being shown to the younger public. That’s a great way to introduce people with Star Wars from the earliest age! However, Star Wars I knew wasn’t a children’s show in essence. Yet, that is exactly what Star Wars has become of late. I wish I could say that the process’s been going on since Disney’s acquisition. Unfortunately, the process has been going on as early as The Clone Wars when the canon priority was given to the cartoon. The Rat has even gone further by saying that everything except the movies (I’m pretty sure he’d cancel the previous movies too if he could) and the bloody cartoon ain’t canon. Then they make another Saturday morning cartoon making it canon while cancelling stuff like the mentioned Force Unleashed, Dark Forces, Shadows of the Empire and so on. So yeah, you can make as many cartoons as you want, but you should give priority to the real stuff. Since the rat cancelled everything from the Expanded Universe, why did he keep a Saturday morning cartoon canon?!

I know that Maul cut in half with his mechanical legs is cool to kids, but as your brain develops, you know that it is idiotic to imply that someone would survive without taking neither a piss nor a shit for 10 years (his body being cut from the ass below and him being on a planet with no medical care for these 10 years…). That lighsaber of the Inquisitor might look cool, but everyone can see how impractical and clumsy such a weapon would be… not to mention the blade spinning is just a tiny bit improbable and silly. What about a kid shooting stormtroopers down with a slingshot? What about a droid having a jet engine where its midwheel is in other scenes? Then there is an asteroid with breathable atmosphere, normal gravity and temperate temperatures. Even as a kid I knew that such an asteroid is unlikely to say the least…
On top of all of it, the rat introduced childishness in the movies. Check the idiotic saber in this trailer of Episode VII. It’s, actually, supposed to be cool and I’m sure kids find it cool but, seriously, what is the bloody purpose of having deadly lasers popping out of the hilt?! I mean, they are too small to threaten the opponent, but perfect for cutting the wielder’s fingers. I mean, yeah crossguard is quite shiny and useful on a steel sword, but on a lightsaber also known as lasersword (LASER – figure it out yourself)… So, the Rat decided to keep more of the Expended Universe! In addition to a Saturday morning cartoon, he dug out an idiotic lightsaber (crossguard lightsaber, a saber like the one as seen in the trailer already appeared in a comic)!

And why is the Rat turning Star Wars into a children’s show? Money, of course! Think about it, you’re more likely to buy a movie ticket for your kid, so he can watch his favourite movie on a big screen than you are for yourself. You can probably wait for a DVD release (not to mention  the leaks) and the big screen isn’t that important to you, but you’d do anything for your child and buying a movie ticket certainly ain’t much. If nothing else, then to keep an impatient brat quite. That being said, I can say with a pretty big certainty that Lucas wasn’t thinking about anything but money when he sold Star Wars to the Rat. After all, what was the amount he sold Star Wars for? $ 4.05 billion? Indeed, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were quite right to depict Lucas raping a stormtrooper all those years ago (in 2008 to be precise, the year when The Clone Wars cartoon started airing :) ) in South Park.

Finally, the Rat should have stuck with the Pirates instead of messing with Star Wars. That way, at least we’d have another Pirates movie by now and I guess it would be good, since every Pirate movie thus far kicks ass :D Pirates of the Caribbean are the most mature Disney work anyway…

P.S. The lightsaber blades in Star Wars: Rebels are so lame…


Posted on May 6th, 2015 at 15:21 GMT
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Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

Splinter

TITLE: SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE
AUTHOR: ALAN DEAN FOSTER
GENRE: science fiction
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PUBLISHED: 1978

Like so many fellow bloggers before me [Muda od labuda (Bosnian) and Kialtho :D in particular], I’m gonna blog about a book. Well, not exactly like the mentioned guys because I’m not gonna write like a real review. Hopefully this post will get one of these two, or someone else who bumps into the post, intrigued in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, make him or her want to read the book and possible write a real review.

The post isn’t solely about Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. I’ll be comparing the book with other, “more recent”, Star Wars works, especially with Shadows of the Empire. Shadows of the Empire and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye have some similarities. Both books are set in time of the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI). Splinter of the Mind’s Eye takes place between Episodes IV and V while Shadows of the Empire takes place between Episodes V and VI. Both books had been written before the release of the prequel trilogy (Episodes I-III). However Shadows of the Empire was published in 1996, 13 years after the release of Episode VI while Splinter of the Mind’s Eye had been published two years before even Episode V. A New Hope, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and The Empire Strikes Back were indeed released in chronological order. That’s not the case with The Empire Strikes Back, Shadows of the Empire and the Return of the Jedi. Shadows of the Empire is actually a prequel of the Return of the Jedi. That is the key difference between Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and Shadows of the Empire: both were written “in the dark” of the prequel trilogy but unlike Shadows of the Empire, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was written in the dark of Episodes V and VI, its sequels, too. Basically some parallels can be drawn between these two books. but what I (and probably other Star Wars fans too) find most interesting are the, so to say, shades of grey caused by this “darkness”.

What got me intrigued about this book is that it is the first Star Wars book, written all the way back in 1978. Well, not the first first Star Wars book. The first ever was the novelization of A New Hope (entitled at first Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker; the title was changed later to match the new title of the movie), which had actually been published before the movie was released, thus there are quite a few differences between the movie and the novelization. Nevertheless, both the novelization and the movie were based on the same script, so I can freely say that A New Hope novelization doesn’t count :D It is interesting, however, that, although credited to George Lucas, A New Hope novelization was ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster (i.e. Lucas and Foster colaborated, that is Lucas wrote the script and Foster turned it into a book), the same author who wrote Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

Since very few Star Wars books had been written before the renown Thrawn Trilogy (which was written some 5 years before the Shadows of the Empire) especially this early on (actually Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is the second Star Wars work in general, the book being released two years before Episode V), the Star Wars universe was in its early stage of development, many aspects not yet being finalized, many not yet introduced, some initially differently planned. Basically, the book had been written before the Star Wars universe really began to shape (note that the book doesn’t even have Star Wars in its title). Anyway, I would like to comment on this different look on Star Wars back then from the look Star Wars got only two years later with the release of Episode V … and later still, of course. But the point is that there were a few crucial changes just in those two years.

What makes the development of the Star Wars world so interesting is Lucas’s bullshit that he’d had a clear picture of Star Wars from the start, having the whole story done. Well, works like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Shadows of the Empire, the Thrawn Trilogy (Lucas had a big say in the Thrawn Trilogy labelling it the official continuation of the original trilogy… until he sold his soul to Disney for “mere” $ 4.05 billion) say otherwise… and I’m pretty sure that he didn’t plan the Disney abomination called the sequel trilogy. He woke up one morning, made Star Wars up and just happened to bump into 4.05 billion bucks some 40 years later…

Before proceeding, I should write the book synopsis:

Other than taking place long ago in a galaxy far far away, of course, the book takes place shortly before the events of Episode V.

In short, Leia and Luke were on their way to a secret Rebel meeting on Circarpous IV because the Circarpousians’d been fed up with Imperial shit when suddenly Leia’s Y-wing started to malfunction and they were forced to land on the nearest planet, which was fortunately habitual. But, unfortunately, they got hit by atmospheric disturbance and crash landed.

After several days of roaming the jungle they bumped on an Imperial mining town. The mining operation was responsible for atmospheric disturbance that crash landed them. They meet a Force-sensitive woman, Halla, in the town, who agrees to help them get of world, but in return she asks them a favour. She showed them a splinter of an ancient crystal powerful in the Force. Halla wants Leia and Luke [and the droids – R2D2 :D and C3PO :( (bloody hell, I hate that goldenrod >:( )] to help her get to the crystal, which she had been trying for years, because she’s afraid of what might happen if the crystal ended up in Imperial hands (thus far the Empire hadn’t been aware of the crystal’s existence). Upon touching the splinter, Luke immediately felt the strength of the Force within it and decided to help Halla unquestionably. What, indeed, if a Force-sensitive Imperial, say Vader, finds the crystal first…

Summary on the covers of the book:

Stranded on a jungle planet, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia found themselves desperately racing Imperial Stormtroopers to claim a gem that had mysterious powers over the Force.

Luke Skywalker expected trouble when he volunteered to follow Princess Leia on her mission to Circarpous to enlist their Rebel underground in the battle against the Empire. But the farm boy from Tatooine hadn’t counted on an unscheduled landing in the swamplands of Mimban …hadn’t counted on any of the things they would find on that strange planet.

Hidden on this planet was the Kaiburr crystal, a mysterious gem that would give the one who possessed it such powers over the Force that he would be all but invincible. In the wrong hands, the crystal could be deadly. So Luke had to find this treasure and find it fast.

Accompanied by Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio—his two faithful ‘droids—Luke and the Princess set out for the Temple of Pomojema …and a confrontation deep beneath the surface of an alien world with the most fearsome villain in the galaxy!

Most of the plot occurs on a single planet. That’s because Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was actually backup for a low budget Star Wars movie. Basically, Lucas decided to film a Star Wars squeal in any case. If the incomes from A New Hope had turned out poorly, Lucas would have filmed Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. As it turned out, A New Hope made quite a profit and we saw The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen instead of the Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. That is, also, why Han and Chewie don’t appear in the book – Harrison Ford hadn’t yet signed a contract for another Star Wars movie.

Kaiburr crystal is going to be used in many later Star Wars works, including Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords and Legacy of the Force book series. Actually, the crystal is one of the main cons in the continuity of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye because Luke, Leia and Halla took the crystal with them at the end of the book. The crystal was quite powerful, especially its healing properties (though the crystal needed a Force-user as a vessel of its power) yet no mention of the crystal is made in the following movies. I’m quite sure such a crystal would’ve come in handy to the Rebellion. Yet the movies didn’t give a hint about the crystal. This was rectified in later Star Wars works which explained the crystal’s power waned the further the crystal was taken from the temple, meaning the crystal would become pretty much useless when taken far from Mimban, say to Rebellion HQ. Still, what about the rebels on Circarpous IV…

Except of Luke, Leia, Vader, the book introduced other characters, not seen in the later movies. In addition to Halla, whom I mentioned already, new characters are Hin and Kee. Hin and Kee introduced a new species to Star Wars – they are Yuzzem.

Yuzzem are a species similar to Wookiees (yes, Chewbacca). I found the Yuzzem in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye interesting in two aspects:
One is speciesism. Speciesism is a Star Wars equivalent of discrimination like racism just instead of races, the targets are different species other than your own. Naturally, it is shown negatively in Star Wars. An attribute often employed by the dark side. Although the Sith usually care about power in their ranks, no matter the species (indeed, Sith were of various species); their servants often lack wits to overcome speciesism. The Empire employed the “Human High Culture“, which is speciesism centred around humans, hence very few high ranking alien Imperial personnel (none in the movies). Human High Culture accepted species who were similar, at least in appearance, to humans, especially Near-Humans, but others like Wookiees and the Yuzzem… Hin and Kee had been “voluntary labourers” in the Imperial mine Luke and Leia came to. In any case, like in many other works, I find it interesting in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, how the author discriminated himself: Although he certainly did not write from the perspective(s) of an Imp, he often referred to Hin and Kee with “it” long after establishing the “creatures” were sentient and after their sex had been determined (in Hin’s and Kee’s case, male). So I have a question for Foster, and other authors (those that discriminate in such a fashion, of course… and there are many): Why are you surprised with racism, sexism and other kinds of discrimination in the real world if you can’t distance yourself from discrimination when writing a fictitious story?!
The other would be language. Yuzzem, being similar to the Wookiees, speak a similar lingo (yes, those Chewbacca growls :D ). The only difference between the species is that the Yuzzem are physically able to speak Basic (the most common language in the galaxy) while the Wookiees can only understand Basic, but ain’t physically able to speak the lingo (that’s why Chewie understood everything Han and the others told him). Yet Hin and Kee wouldn’t have been able to communicate with Luke, Leia and Halla at all if Luke somehow miraculously hadn’t learned the lingo back on Tatooine to kill time. Mkay, so they can’t speak Basic. Yuzzem, being able to speak Basic probably hadn’t been introduced yet, but why couldn’t they have understood it? And about Luke… Mkay, let’s say Luke was able to learn a lingo solely from a book with no communication in the language. The problem is that the language is grunting similar to Wookieespeak. There is no way in hell he’d be able to learn to speak such a lingo. Like Wookiees ain’t physically able to speak a human lingo, humans can’t grunt like that, not without extensive prior training before at least, which he couldn’t have had on Tatooine. Besides, I do wonder why he never grunted with Chewie then. Fine, Yuzzem and Wookieespeak ain’t the same, but with proper training (I’m sure Chewie would’ve landed a hand… and there’s C3PO)… Speaking of languages in the book, Halla spoke Coway, a local lingo, which is more likely than Luke’s Yuzzem ’cause she spent so many years on Mimban (the problem is that the Coway are quite isolated). What I wanted to point out here is that authors often imply that speaking and/or understanding a foreign language is a piece of cake [hell, my characters in The Old Republic understand every bloody language in the galaxy including Rakatan, a language extinct for millennia; makes me wonder what the point of Basic is then… not to mention the use of protocol droids (droids like C3PO) :D ]. Well, it’s not (especially if the lingo is hissing or growling like Wookiespeak…)! And I’m pretty sure that such authors speak only their language(s) fluently themselves. By creating, for example, the Yuzzem who don’t understand Basic at all and then a human who speaks their lingo; they contradict themselves because a language such as Basic in Star Wars is much more common than Yuzzem and, although there would definitely be Yuzzem who wouldn’t speak it, it is much more likely that Hin and Kee (or at least one of them!) would understand Basic than Luke would speak Yuzzem, especially since Yuzzem who don’t understand Basic would hardly be of any interest to the Empire. Sure, a Yuzzem can lift three times as much of weight as a human can, but a Yuzzem who you can talk to is more useful than a Yuzzem you can’t talk to… Enough of Basic and Yuzzem. I’ll show you what I mean on an example from real life: Many Croatians speak, or at least understand, English, so you are likely to find a Croatian speaking English. Yet how many people from English-speaking countries have any understanding of Croatian? You would bust your ass, indeed, finding someone from an English-speaking country who speaks Croatian. After all, you’re reading a post I wrote in English. When is the last time you blogged in Croatian? Suffice it to say, “Croatian” is Yuzzem in the book and English is Basic ;)

The book described Imperial troops on Mimban as “men and women stationed too long on a backward, desolate world where discipline and training relaxed concurrently with morale”. In addition to speciesism, the High Human Culture of the Empire included male chauvinism. Basically very few Imperial troops were alien and/or women, so Imperial troops can’t really be described as “men and women“. Of course, the Human High Culture was introduced later to explain the lack of aliens and women in Imperial troops in the original trilogy. The truth is that aliens were expensive to “create” back when the original trilogy was filmed (that explains the real reason for the lack of aliens at least, as for women..). Anyway, it’s likely Foster just had no ide of Human High culture back in 1987.

Although I was planning to do it for years, I finally made myself yesterday to go through all my VHS tapes. Goddamn, I counted 51 cassettes. Suffice it to say I needed a big carton box to store them all in. As a comparison, 50 disks (CDs and/or DVDs and/or Blu/rays) fit this spindle box (meaning you could probably stuff 51 disks in such a spindle). I’m telling you this know ’cause tapes are frequently mentioned in the book as a means of storing data [e.g. Leia telling Luke Check your Imperial tapes (about Circarpous V – Mimban)]. Tapes have been removed from later Star Wars works. Actually, I’m pretty sure this is the only Star Wars work where I encountered tapes. This is interesting because it shows how people perceived technological development in the past. How can data possibly be be stored in the “mind’s eye” of 1978? On a tape, of course. Even in the eighties, the decline of the tape could be seen and now we virtually don’t use tapes! Well, I doubt that the youngest Star Wars fans know what a (magnetic) tape is or how it looks at all (here‘s a Wikipedia article about magnetic tape data storage in case I piqued an interest in a “youngest Star Wars fan”). But in 1978…

When did Lucas come up with the Sith and the Rule of Two? According to him, right away when he was writing the scenario for A New Hope. But did he really? Although the term sith was first heard from the big screen with the release of the Episode I, in 1999; Darth Vader was referred to as a Dark Lord of the Sith in the novelization of every episode of the original trilogy, including A New Hope. Likewise, he is referred to as a Sith in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. He is referred to like that in Shadows of the Empire, which was published before Episode I, too. Interestingly both he and Palpatine, the Emperor, are only said to be “dark Jedi” in the Thrawn Trilogy, which had been published before Shadows of the Empire. This would indicate that the usage of the term sith waned over time, probably because it wasn’t used on set, and then resurfaced before the release of Episode I. Indeed, some works released prior to Episode I have sith in their title (e.g. Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith). There are others from the nineties that use the term sith too (e.g. Dark Apprentice from 1994).
You might have noticed that I didn’t say Palpatine was referred to as a Sith. That’s because what ever Lucas might say, the idea of Palpatine being a Sith surfaced much later. It was clearly established that Palpatine was a master of the dark side with The Empire Strikes Back. Yet even though his mastery in the dark side (and manipulating events and people) was firmly backed in Shadows of the Empire, he was never referred to as a Sith. Splinter in the Mind’s Eye goes even further because prior to The Empire Strikes Back, the Emperor had been intended to be a weakling, a mere marionette of people like Tarkin. Actually, true power of the Empire was meant to be in the hands of such individuals. After all, in A New Hope Leia said: Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. This is further backed in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Vader being described as Tarkin’s henchmen. In addition to Tarkin being shown as a man behind the curtain, Palpatine’s Force-sensitivity wasn’t even hinted at. When saying she was afraid of Kaiburr crystal falling in Imperial hands, Halla said There are Force-sensitives in the Imperial government who might feel such a stirring, giving no hint at all that the Emperor might a Force-sensitive in the government. Actually, knowing Palpatine as we know him now, he’d probably get rid of every slightly Force-sensitive person in his government. The idea of the Rule of Two from the start is further questionable because many Star Wars works prior to Episode I include more than just two dark side villains and Lucas was mkay with that. Later works explain that by saying those were only dark Jedi not true Sith.
Talking about the Sith and dark Jedi, I think I should clarify the terms now. Dark Jedi are dark side users that are not initiated into the Sith cult, they don’t have insight in the true mysteries of the dark side. Sith, on the other hand, are the masters of the dark side, fully pledged to the dark side members of the Sith order. Since Bane instated the Rule of Two, the Sith frequently used dark Jedi as their lackeys, mostly assassins, to do their dirty work because they were limited to two and, before Palpatine revealed himself, wanted to stay hidden. Dooku and the Separatists used dark Jedi, like Ventress, to counter the Jedi of the Republic, never revealing his master is in fact the man behind the curtain. That makes Qui-Gon recognizing Maul as a Sith a bit outstreched (his only conclusion was that Maul’d been a Sith Lord simply because he was trained in the Jedi arts) – Maul could easily have been a dark Jedi.

Another interesting thing is the development of the perception of the Force in Star Wars. How poor it was in A New Hope and how powerful it turned out to be in Revenge of the Sith (frankly, as early as Return of the Jedi with Palpatine’s Force lightning)! Just compare the poor duel between Obi-Wan and Vader in A New Hope and their duel in Revenge of the Sith! Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is more like on the level with A New Hope. Halla introduced herself as a Force master. To prove her Force mastery she moved a spice shaker a few centimetres. After the feat she was all sweaty… Although Luke wasn’t impressed by her “parlour trick”. Later Halla and Luke worked together to move a tray to hit the switch to dematerialized the bars of a prison cell in a jail (yes, a pretty “modern” Star Wars prison with dematerializing bars; I can’t say I remember any such prison in other Star Wars works :o ). Suffice it to say, they were both totally exhausted after they’d hit the switch. At the end of the book though, there came Vader who conjured a ball of Force energy, which Luke – who barely moved a tray with Halla’s help – somehow managed to deflect. Also, in the end, Halla did admit she was a “Force charlatan”.

Now. the lightsabers. From The Empire Strikes Back, the heat of a lightsaber beam cauterizes a wound the saber inflicts immediately. In A New Hope, though, the wound wasn’t cauterized when Obi-Wan cut the arm of that fellow in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Well, in the first lightsaber fight in the book, in a brawl, when Luke cut a hand off a miner it was clearly stated that the wound was indeed cauterized (Off came a hand, cut and cauterized neatly at the wrist…), but when Luke, later, cut Vader’s arm off, he was surprised by the lack of blood. In addition to blood actually being cauterized, knowing the events of the Attack of the Clones, we can now explain this by the fact that Dooku’d cut Vader’s real arm decades before the events of Splinter in Mind’s Eye, meaning Luke merely cut a mechanical arm. The problem is that Luke did see blood, he just expected to see more.
Lightsabers are supposed to cut through anything. When touching body, they usually cut a body part off, that is it’s very hard to stop a lightsaber from cutting your limb off if you didn’t manage to deflect the blow in the first place. Yet Vader didn’t cut a single piece of Leia, but gave her a million gashes… It’s implied that Vader was only taunting her, but it’s hard to believe that one with so little patience wouldn’t slip at least once and cut a millimetre too deep, thus, severing her limb. That being said, lightsaber is a dangerous weapon and can be wielded only by professionally trained, usually Force-sensitive, people. Us “mortals” would end up cutting ourselves pretty much as soon as we would make a swing. In later Star Wars works, Jedi often comment when they return their lightsabers from thugs who’d stolen them that they actually saved the thugs’ life by stealing their weapons back. Indeed, think about it. When someone untrained in sword “play” takes a sword for the first time, he usually ends up with cuts and bruises. Now, imagine that instead of steel blade, you cut yourself with a deadly laser beam… However, both Luke and Leia, both yet untrained in the use of a lightsaber – especially Leia who would become a Jedi decades later and who showed no hint of Force-sensitivity in the book – wield the lightsaber against Vader – a true master in lightsaber combat – to deadly precision. Although Luke’s mastery in the lightsaber and Force art (him deflecting Vader’s “Force-ball”), can be attributed to Obi-Wan’s spirit taking control of him. Before the duel he said I’m Ben Kenobi. Later, in the Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan did tell Luke he couldn’t help him anymore. I always thought that referred to Obi-Wan’s whispering to Luke in the Death Star trench, but really like Use the Force, Luke and The Force will be with you, always were of much use, so who knows…
Not to mention that no one shows a bit of recognition about a lightsaber, a renown weapon of the Jedi. Yes, by the time of the book the Jedi had been all but exterminated, but that was some 20 years before the events of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. There’s just no way in hell nobody would remember them. Someone would likely call the authorities to “deal” with Luke and Leia. After all, some Jedi did survive the purge. This is not clearly stated in the original trilogy – even though Obi-Wan did say in A New Hope the Jedi had been all but exterminated – but it is logical. There is no way in hell you could exterminate every Jedi in the galaxy with a single blow, no matter how good (or evil in this case :o ) you are. That’s why the Empire would kill Luke and Leia as soon as they saw them with a lightsaber. A goal of the Empire was to exterminate all the remaining Jedi, after all.

A word or two about Lucas’s plan for the Skywalker family:
So the sibling relation between Luke and Leia is not even hinted at. Quite the contrary, there is sexual tension between them, especially regarding Luke’s feelings towards Leia. Very well, they didn’t know they were siblings. However, upon Luke telling Leia he was his brother in the Return of the Jedi, Leia told him that somehow she’d always known. That is strengthened in Shadows of the Empire when Leia was longing for Han and thought there was Luke, but that, although always having feelings for her, those feelings were different and she couldn’t quite put her finger on how different. In Splinter of Mind’s Eye, however, she shows no hint of “having a feeling” Luke is “something more”. Furthermore, her Force-sensitivity isn’t implied to at all, expect in the duel with Vader although at the time, we did not know Force-sensitivity, or just extra skill, is required to wield a lightsaber. In the Shadows of the Empire (written after the original trilogy), in addition of Leia having “different feelings” for Luke, her Force-sensitivity was implied when she called to Luke the same way Luke had called to her on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back.
Another example of the Skywalker family tree is Vader calling Luke Skywalker showing no indication of knowing Luke was his son. I mean, Skywalker was Vader’s real surname. Luke being strong with the Force and Vader knowing Padmé‘d been pregnant with him some 20 years ago, he should have at least suspected Luke was his son, as he did in The Empire Strikes Back. Moreover, Vader wanted Luke dead in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which is best seen in this quote: I probably won’t have the patience to let you last as long as you deserve. In The Empire Strikes Back, Shadows of the Empire and Return of the Jedi, Vader clearly wanted Luke alive. Regarding the Skywalker family tree, it’s interesting what Luke says about his parents at the beginning of the book. Lemme cite the first three paragraphs of the book:

How beautiful was the universe, Luke thought. How beautifully flowing, glorious and aglow like the robe of a queen. Ice-black clean in its emptiness and solitude, so unlike the motley collage of spinning dust motes men called their worlds, where the human bacteria throve and multiplied and slaughtered one another. All so that one might say he stood a little higher than his fellows.

In depressed moments he felt sure there was no really happy living matter on any of those worlds. Only a plethora of destructive human diseases which fought and raged constantly against one another, a sequence of cancerous civilizations which fed on its own body, never healing yet somehow not quite dying.

A particularly virulent strain of one of those cancers had killed his own mother and father, then his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. It had also taken from him the man he had learned to respect more than any other, the elderly Jedi knight Ben Kenobi.

So, Uncle Owen told Luke a nasty cancer had killed his parents… At least, that’s how we look at the story now, but I’m pretty sure that a “particularly virulent strain of a cancer” (the strain that killed Anakin Skywalker being Darth Vader, of course) had been the true death of the old Skywalkers.

Metric system (kilogrammes, kilometres, metres etc.) is used throughout Star Wars, probably because it’s more likely that a society in a galaxy far, far away would have measures based on the number 10 than any other kind of a measuring system. Yet Leia was buried under four feet of mud, probably because the book had been written before metric system was chosen for the measuring system used in Star Wars. I remember troopers in the early episodes of that Saturday morning cartoon The Clone Wars, saying something was a few inches long. That’s probably because The Clone Wars is a Saturday morning cartoon and you can’t expect American kids to deal with international measures, but you “can” expect kids from the rest of the world to deal with measures used almost exclusively in the US… Luckily, this crap was rectified in later episodes of the Saturday morning cartoon.

Finally, let me just say that the word “droid” is always spelled ‘droid (with an apostrophe) in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye since “droid” was considered an abbreviation of “android” :D

If you ask me whether I’d recommend you to read Splinter of the Mind’s Eye; yes, I would definitely recommend the book, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan. The book is quite thrilling. What I’ve wrote about in the post thus far is by no account a criticism towards the book (mkay except the language thing and discrimination thing, which were more like critiques of the author anyway). I only pointed the perspective of things from an old, rather ancient (1978!), Star Wars book to a “modern Star Wars fan”.

There are, however, a few critiques regarding the book I do have:

The book says Luke shot down Vader’s TIE in the Death Star trench. It was Han Solo who shot him down… Time for more citing :D

Darth Vader addressed them in a coldly conversational tone. “You know, Skywalker, I had a difficult time finding out that it was you who shot up my TIE fighter above the Death Star station. Rebellion spies are hard and expensive to come by. I also found out it was you who released the torpedo that destroyed the station. You have a great deal to atone for to me. I’ve waited a long time.”

Mkay, let’s set aside the fact that Foster ghostwrote A New Hope novelization and should have known full well who shot Vader in the Death Star trench, because he bloody wrote it, now. Mkay, Vader couldn’t have known who actually shot him and could have been given a wrong information, but another information that had been given to him stated Luke was the one who released the torpedo that destroyed the Deth Star (the right information). Vader being shot down had taken place only a minute or so before the station was destroyed, so how the hell did Vader (and Foster apparently…) believe that the same person was responsible for such simultaneous events?! No offence, but you really have to be extra stupid to believe such shit. No matter how strong with the Force someone is, there is just no way in hell anybody could be in two places at the same time, not even in Star Wars.

Another inconsistency, although not nearly as stupid as the previous one, is Vader’s blade being described as blue. Again, set aside the fact that most dark side users used red blades (many did use other colours, most notably Exar Kun), which was, again introduced long after the release of Splinter of Mind’s Eye; Foster should have known Vader’s saber was red because he wrote so in A New Hope novelization.

R2 is referred to as a Deetoo unit, although it was clearly established he was an Artoo unit in A New Hope. Again, Foster wrote the novelization of A New Hope. I mean, I find it stupid to refer to R2’s series of astromechs wiht R2 units. After all, the only (visual) difference between R2 and Obi-Wan’s astromech was the colour (his droid was red), yet Obi-Wan’s astromech was R4-P17 (neither a bloody R nor a blood 2 in the designation). Still, Artoo has been from an R2 unit since A New Hope!

Since I’ve mentioned a lot of other Star Wars works in the post, I think it’s proper to end the post with Star Wars Legends timeline. I said Legends because most of Star Wars works, including Splinter of the Mind’s Eye ain’t canon anymore. Basically, when Lucas sold his soul to Mickey Mouse, the bloody rat decided to throw 40 years of hard work to a garbage can The rat just said Fuck the previous work. It ain’t canon anymore. I will be good enough to rebrand it to “Legends” now make room for my abominations.

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Posted on April 29th, 2015 at 15:26 GMT
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Beyond the Black

Listening to Rock Antenne, I heard a very potential new band called Beyond the Black. They released their début album, Songs of Love and Death on February 13th. They’re German, so they managed to be a support band on Wacken Open Air, the biggest metal festival in the world, last year. The festival spread the word about them and they were a support band on Saxon UK tour this autumn (the link says winter, but all the dates are actually autumn dates :D ). Their singer sounds like Sharon den Adel from Within Temptation :D

The problem with Beyond the Black is little info about them is available and the small info I did manage to find about them is in German, including the interviews on YouTube. I mean, the songs are in English (as is their Facebook page :D ), but other than that… They don’t even have a real website yet. They have a crap on Universal Music (yeah, it’s in German), but that’s it.

Anyway, if you like symphonic metal (bands like Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation etc.), I guarantee you’re going to like Beyond the Black too! :D

Here are some of their songs from Wacken:

In the Shadows

Songs of Love and Death

Running to the Edge


Posted on March 14th, 2015 at 19:31 GMT
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Maribor (CEEPUS)

Content

Use Ctrl+F codes to quickly navigate through the rest of the post:
CEEPUS (cf01)
Maribor (cf02)
-Distances (cf03)
-Picture time (cf04)
-Colours of religion (cf05)
Maribor Castle (cf06)
-Avgust Škrabar (and Karađorđe’s star) (cf07)
-Shoes are boring, wear sneakers (and a critique for my nation mates) (cf08)
-“The Romani question” (cf09)
-Vocabulary (cf10)
University(s) (cf11)
-Vine (cf12)
-Mestni park (cf13)
-The river Drava (cf14)
-Campus Gosposvetska (cf15)
-The best tea in the galaxy (cf16)
-Final words (cf17)
Celje (cf18)
-Picture time (cf19)
-Celjski dom (cf20)
-Castle Celje (cf21)
Graz (cf22)
-Styria (cf23)
-Picture time (cf24)
-Geek time now (cf25)
A Map for the End (cf26)

CEEPUS (cf01)

Nming the post was a thoughy again.

One of my last student adventures, before HSS, was participating in the Central European Exchange Program for University Students (CEEPUS). As the name says, CEEPUS is an exchange programme for university students in Central Europe, kinda like ERASMUS, but covering just Central Europe instead of the whole continent. “Just Central Europe”, huh? Not exactly Central Europe, more like Central Europe and the neighbourhood. The programme covers as eastern parts of Europe as Bulgaria yet neither Germany nor Switzerland are part of the programme and those countries are often considered the heart of Central Europe. Anyway, the countries of CEEPUS Central Europe (i.e. the countries participating in the programme) are:  Albania, Austria (CEEPUS HQ is located in Austria), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Macedonia (FYORM), Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Kosovo, Slovakia, and Slovenia (check the map below). Although not every single university in this region is a CEEPUS member, if you attend a university in such a defined Central Europe, you can probably participate in the programme. It’s definitely worth checking out. Trust me :)

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After the end of your CEEPUS time, you get a letter of confirmation like this one. Yeah, quite poor :o A simple A4 piece of paper, not even printed in colour. In addition, the letters printed are those of basic Latin alphabet (i.e. no diacritics nor accents… at least those most commonly used in Central European lingoes). That’s right, a Central European programme doesn’t print letters common in Central Europe (e.g. it should have said Lučka, not Lucka on my letter of confirmation, my name was misspelled in such a fashion too and the same keyboard layout is used in Slovenia and Croatia)… Anyway, can’t be compared with a Helsinki Summer School diploma :D where, in addition to better paper and colour print, my name is actually correctly spelled. So, the letters common in Central Europe are printed with no biggie on diplomas of an international summer school, but they ain’t printed on Central European Exchange Program for University Students letters of confirmation…

Now, I went to the University of Maribor in Slovenia.
I didn’t want to name the post just CEEPUS because I honestly don’t know much about the programme, only that I went to Maribor through the programme :D
I stayed only for a month (April 2014) and, therefore, didn’t go much outside Maribor. I did go to Celje and Graz, Austria (only 70 klicks from Maribor) though.
In the end I opted for Maribor (CEEPUS) to include both Maribor and CEEPUS :D

MARIBOR (cf02)

Maribor is the second largest city of Slovenia. Indeed, you can say that Ljubljana (capital and the largest city) and Maribor are the only two centres of Slovenia although the coastal region has seen serious development lately and you can say that it’s quickly becoming, if it hasn’t become already, the third centre of Slovenia.

Distances (cf03)

I chose Slovenia, and particularly Maribor, because I live like 20 minutes east of Slovenian border and Maribor is only 113 km away from my town. That is closer than Rijeka (157 km), the closest of the other big Croatian cities (i.e. Rijeka, Split and Osijek). Speaking of distances, my town is closer to Maribor than Ljubljana (the distance between Maribor and Ljubljana is 128 km) :D So I wasn’t far from home, but participated in an international student exchange programme. I have a good buddy in Maribor (me Neighbour :D ). Slovenian and Croatian are similar lingoes, so the language barrier was minimum. Actually, most Slovenians speak Croatian, especially older generation because Serbocroatian was lingua franca of Yugoslavia… and pretty much still is in the ex-Yugoslavia. Although the language of CEEPUS is English, I didn’t have to use English at all (except to clarify something I or the interlocutor said). To come to think of it, the only time I couldn’t communicate was in a Chinese shop in Celje where neither English nor Croatian nor Slovenian helped. Seriously, the only thing the vendor could say was Ne razumem (I don’t understand) and what I don’t understand is how she could do any business in Celje :o Finally, the CEEPUS co-ordinator of my home university suggested Maribor.

Saying how close Maribor is, I’d like to say now how to get to Maribor from my town. Except a car (note you have to buy a vignette if you wanna drive on Slovenian highways), you can take a train or a bus. Each has its pros and cons. One would say that train is the quickest way. Technically that is true, but the train stops in every single village, making the trip to Maribor last two hours at best. The bus, on the other hand, makes only one stop before Maribor: in Krapina, Croatia. The problem with the bus is that Slovenians still like to fuck vehicles with Croatian registration on the border despite that we are now in the EU and the bus does have Croatian registration. You can literally be stuck at the border for hours. Now, they can’t really hold a train for long without screwing up the whole schedule and that would piss the train companies off, especially because if I remember correctly, the train for Maribor only passes through Zagreb and Maribor (its destination is Frankfurt or so and its starting point Belgrade or so).
I’ll never forget the Americans teaching me Pitch in the train I was on on my return trip home. They boarded the train in Vienna, Austria. At first I was very enthusiastic to learn Pitch since it is a card game, after all. I actually Facebooked a girl who was teaching me a few times, but I have no one to play the game with and the bloody passage of time…
Anyway, Slovenians would piss German and Austrian train companies of by delaying trains and they don’t wanna do that.
Likewise, the bus ain’t a straight Zagreb-Maribor line. Its starting point is Zagreb, but its destination is Graz and Maribor is just a stop.
Actually, the bus is intended for one day trips from Zagreb to Graz (it leaves from Zagreb at 6:30 AM and then leaves from Graz at 4:00 PM).

Ironically, as I mentioned above, Maribor is closer to me than Rijeka (43 km closer to be precise), yet the return ticket to Maribor costs 119 HRK while the return ticked to Rijeka costs 38 HRK (that’s 45 km less, but the price is 3 times as high as for Rijeka). Well, Maribor is abroad after all (note, that I never feel like a foreigner in Slovenia and I doubt Slovenians in Croatia feel like foreigners) :D

Anyway, just wanted to say that Maribor is better connected to Zagreb than vice versa. That is, you can make a one-day trip from Zagreb to Maribor by a bus or a train. You board in the morning and leave in the afternoon (bus) or evening (train). If you’re headed from Maribor to Zagreb by a train or a bus, on the other hand, you must stay somewhere over night. Two nights actually: you arrive in the afternoon/evening of one day, but you’d want to do your business in the town the next day, so you’d have to wait for another morning to leave.

Picture time (cf04) :D

Well, let’s “illustrate” Maribor with pictures:

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Another naked boy. Should I be worried for living in a world where naked boys are so “popular” :o

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This is the main square of Maribor… or is it? It is hardly the most popular square in town. Actually, it’s usually empty like this, but its name is Main Square (slo. Glavni trg) probably because Maribor City Hall is located on the square.
That’s the statue of Virgin Mary on the pillar. Now, it ain’t the original statue. The original statue began to seriously degrade over time. That’s why it was decided (in 1990 if I remember correctly) to preserve the original statue in a museum (Maribor Castle to be precise).

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And that’s the city hall on the Main Square

Colours of religion (cf05)

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This is the Franciscan Church in Maribor. It’s located on the Square of Freedom (slo. Trg svobode). Now that square is the true main square of Maribor.

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Speaking of churches, this is Maribor Cathedral. Yeah, it ain’t nearly as popular as the Franciscan Church.

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And, yeah, speaking of churches, this is the Lutheran church in Maribor. Like Croatia, Slovenia is mostly catholic. Nevertheless, some Slovenians are Lutherans. Lutherans are dispersed throughout the country, but they’re not big in number. Therefore, there are just a few Lutheran churches in Slovenia. After the one in Celje was closed, the closest church to this one was in Ljubljana. That being said, the church serves Lutherans neighbouring Maribor. Frankly, since distances here, especially in Slovenia, aren’t much of a problem, the believers outside Maribor can easily reach the church in the town. I spoke to the curator and he told me Lutherans can just a attend Catholic mass when protestant service is unavailable.
Also, I know that some protestant churches are quite liberal and have priestesses. Frankly, I don’t see why the hell a woman couldn’t be a priest(ess) (I have to say here that Old Catholic Church, the views of which suit me the best, has priestesses too). Still I was quite surprised to learn that Lutherans have priestesses. This church is headed by a priestess.

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This is the inside of the church. In case you haven’t been inside a protestant church, you really must go into one to see how overdecorated catholic (and orthodox) churches are. This was the first Lutheran church I had been in. The funny thing is that upon returning home, I learnt that a church near my Uni is in fact Lutheran. Since you can’t really tell a difference between a catholic and a protestant church from the outside because it’s the inside of a catholic church that is so decorated; I didn’t take notice on that particular church :o

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And another church in Maribor

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And speaking of religious buildings, this is the synagogue in Maribor. Yeah, it ain’t much :o
The point is that this is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. Indeed, Maribor’s had a rich Jewish history.

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Klikni na sliku i obrati pažnju da na “bosansko-hrvatskoj” latinici piše …Bosne in Hercegovine… :D
…and Bosnian consulate a few metres from the synagogue :D

Maribor Castle (cf06)

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This is the Maribor Castle

The castle is a museum today and naturally, in addition to it housing the original statue of the Virgin Mary replica on the Main Square, lots of other stuff can be seen in the castle. The museum pretty much covers the history from the ice age to the 20th century.

Here are some pics:

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This is a replica of a chimneyless house, quite commonly used by the middle-class, Note that fire place was still used for cooking and heating, but there was no chimney!

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You can enter a chimneyless house. I managed to take a pic of the fire place in one.
So our ancestors could choose a way to die outside battlefield – they could either suffocate or freeze to death! What a lovely choice…

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A shiny coat of arms

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There are many models of battles against the Turks, but this is my favourite – LEGOS :D

Avgust Škrabar (and Karađorđe’s star) (cf07)

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Click on the image to enlarge it
In short this a poster honouring the history of Maribor, Lt. Col. Avgust Škrabar in particular.

Lt. Col. Avgust Škrabar was awarded the Order of Karađorđe’s Star with Swords for his valour protecting the Slovenian (back then Yugoslav) northern borders.

Avgust Škrabar is a national hero of Slovenia and is remembered as such in Slovenia. Now, if he were in Croatia, his story would probably be interpreted differently.
The border protection would still be honoured and, indeed, many of us would still consider him as a hero. But the medal he received would probably stain him in the eyes of a lot of people.
First, note that he was awarded for protecting Yugoslav, not Slovenian borders. Back then, there were no Slovenian borders, nor Croatian, nor Serbian etc. because the division of Yugoslavia did not follow the borders of modern countries (neither in territory nor in name) back then.
Secondly, the Karađorđević dynasty, the ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia,  awarded him the medal. The dynasty is nefarious for its attempts to make Serbs the dominant nation in Yugoslavia. They did not name the kingdom (Greater) Serbia or something like that, so their attempt wouldn’t be so transparent. Instead they played with the countries making Yugoslavia. Remember how I said that the division of Yugoslavia back then did not follow the borders of modern countries? Yugoslavia was divided in 9 banovinas. The borders of banovinas intentionally didn’t follow the boundaries of ethnic groups, so there would be a strong Serb presence in as many banovinas as possible and there wouldn’t be any successions attempted in the future (after all, the most likely succession would be of a territory of a particular ethnic group, but if ethnic groups were dispersed through many banovinas…). In addition, the dynasty persecuted nonSerbs, including Slovenes [although not as much as other ethnicities because Slovenes were never a real threat to Serbian domination, since not many Serbs have ever lived in Slovenia (though they are still the second largest minority in Slovenia) and Slovenes are small in number].
All this can, and should, be disregarded since such were the times, and he did risk his life for his homeland.

Now, let’s look at the medal. The medal doesn’t have a single Slovenian symbol, but it does have a big Serbian cross. Even the inscription (За веру и слободу 1804For faith and freedom 1804) isn’t in Slovenian, but in Serbian. Actually, as you can see it wasn’t even written in Latin alphabet even though Serbs use Cyrillic and Latin alphabets equally and Slovenians use only Latin alphabet which is only slightly different than (Serbo)croatian Latin alphabet (i.e. it lacks five letters). Basically, Lt. Col. Škrabar could have refused such a medal and I doubt he’d be remembered as any less of a hero. Quite the contrary probably.

Shoes are boring, wear sneakers (and a critique for my nation mates) (cf08)

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This Converse ad (the text, of course, says Shoes are boring, wear sneakers) was quite popular at the time I was in Maribor and I must say that I totally agree with the ad :D

Now you must think So bloody what?! Why are you showing us an ad?! Has stupidity replaced all your fearlessness, Nel?! I posted this photo as a critique for my nation mates. We had tons of this ads, but they were all in English (before seeing this ad, I though they were in English around the globe). Unlike Slovenes, who respect their language, my nation mates don’t give a shit about Croatian (a quote of my friend, her exact words: I don’t give a shit about Croatian). An ad in a foreign language (especially English) is so “cool”… And, of course, most of my nation mates speak English either badly, terribly or not at all, but they are showing off with English. And by “bad” and “terrible”, I don’t mean that they speak ugly like me (i.e. ugly pronunciation) (note that my speech centre is damaged), they simply love stupidities like Rent a motors or Thanks God and often use such stupidities in every-day Croatian conversation replacing perfectly good (and correct) Croatian phrases with this bullshit.

Have you heard how Croatian representative in the European Parliament, Ingrid Antičević-Martinović, embarrassed us, her nation, speaking English? Well, she doesn’t speak English any worse than an average Croatian and the link I’ve just given you pretty much confirms that. Nevertheless, people here were very happy to make fun of her. They found her pronunciation of People must trust us (“Pipl mast trast as”) the funniest. Mkay, it was funny and I did laugh my ass off listening to her, but off all the gibberish she’d said, People must trust us was the only one that actually made sense. Now, who the fuck did make fun of her?! Most of the people who made fun of her say sheeps, can’t distinguish between their and her (as you can see in the link) and so on and the proof is People must trust us because that’s what people here remotely know the meaning of and know that it sounds differently than Ingrid said it.
Also, note how the lazyasses couldn’t stretch their fingers to Č and Ć and just wrote C (yeah, both Č and Ć are available by a single click – check out Croatian keyboard layout).

All in all, most of my nation mates think, using a foreign language, especially English, is so much cooler than using one’s own language and they mock others who speak English badly (to put it in better words, what they think is bad English), Yet most of them don’t actually speak (in) English, they speak on English

“The Romani question” (cf09)

The Roma (Gipsies) are present throughout Europe yet they only present a “question” in Central and Eastern Europe. I mean, they probably ain’t loved anywhere in Europe, but they are not a “question” in, dunno, the UK.

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A big opening ceremony of a Romani restaurant. Everybody’s happy, cheering, singing, laughing, and generally enjoying themselves in the accompaniment of traditional Romani music.

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…and just a dozen metres to the west, there’s this “lovely” “writing on the wall”: Gipsies, suck a dick

Vocabulary (cf10) ;)

Now, time for another little digression:

There I was, wandering Tatooine (yes, a Star Wars planet) in ToR (yes, a Star Wars game) like a good cowboy, when a few sandpeople (or were they Imps? :o ) attacked me. Anyway, I was in a group with Slovenians and I told to the attackers to suck my dick :D Which made me ask meself how Slovenians say dick. They told me that the standard word would be kurec, but that they all say kurac (I’m sure they “burrowed” the word from Croatian) :D

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And, of course, their most beutiful neighbours must be advertised in Maribor (the text says Embrace the spring in Croatia) :D

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Hmm…, I do wonder whether this manhole leads to Varaždin, Croatia :o

University(s) (cf11)

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And speaking of manholes, let it be known that Maribor is a university town (Univerzitetno mesto) :D although the University of Maribor was founded in 1975. Well, I did see a department of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Ljubljana, and the University of Ljubljana dates back to the 17th century I think :D

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This is the main building of the University of Maribor

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This is the University Library in Maribor (slo. Univerzitetna knjižnica Maribor – UKM). Anyway, CEEPUS (probably ERASMUS too, and students of every other exchange programme) get free access to the libraries of their host institution, that includes university libraries. Actually, a librarian at the Faculty of Arts wanted me to pay for membership until the person in charge for foreign students came and asked her what the hell she was doing :o
I did spend a lot of time at the library looking for data for my master’s. I would probably, most likely, be lost without Knoppix because Windows just wouldn’t connect to wi-fi provided by the library. Since people all around me were using Windows, I was pretty sure something was wrong with my Windows. Besides, I couldn’t connect to any wi-fi network in Maribor. On the last day I realized that my wi-fi settings were wrong :o Although, something was really wrong with the wi-fi at the faculty. I couldn’t connect to that wi-fi neither with Windows nor with Knoppix nor with me cell phone (i.e. Android).
One more thing, English isn’t of much use at UKM, as at the University Library in, for example, Helsinki. Neither is it at, for example, the (National and) University Library (cro. Nacionalna i sveučilišna knjižnicaNSK) in Zagreb. Mkay, to be honest, I didn’t really speak English with the staff nor did I search the database strictly for English content (most, if not all, of the results were in Slovenian and the data I used was definitely not in English), but Slovenian was all around me. I think that even Windows on library computers intended for users were in Slovenian.

Vine (cf12)

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Maribor is the home to the oldest vine tree in the world. That is, the tree is more than 400 years old. Now, there were vine trees before and I’m pretty sure there are remnants of an older vine tree somewhere, but vine is still produced from this tree, it has been produced continuously for more than 400 years.
Frankly I wasn’t much impressed by what I saw (a house and vine tree branches), but still… the oldest vine tree on the planet!

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Me in front of the hose. Yeah, the day was quite chilly (…and sunny).

Mestni park (cf13)

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This is a pic of Mestni park (City Park). So a lot of cities have big parks: New York has Central Park, London has Hyde Park, Toronto has Allen Gardens; there’s Park Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, Champ de Mars in Paris, Tiergarten in Berlin etc. Mestni park is such a park in Maribor.

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This is aquarium-terrarium located in Mestni park. You can say that this is an equivalent of a zoo most big cities have. Actually, the zoo in my town is located in the biggest city park. Anyway, the main difference would be that instead of having all kinds of animals, the aquarium-terrarium has only lizards and fish. In addition, the whole aquarium-terrarium is indoors.

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Anyway, I just had to post this pic from the aquarium-terrarium. Yep, these turtles are sleeping on a crock, and the crock was in a pretty deep sleep too. Otherwise, I doubt he’d allow the turtles to be on his back (actually one is pretty much on his head). This scenes brings me back to TMNT and childhood (hell, I still like the turtles so lemme just shout here: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES!!! :D ). I do wonder whether the four turtles are in fact Leo, Raph, Don and Mikey, and whether the crock is Leatherhead ;) I guess that a rat must be hiding somewhere around here in that case :o

The river Drava (cf14)

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Maribor lies on the river Drava. Two things about the river: one, there are no dikes and houses are located very near the water, which tells us the Drava is pretty calm in Maribor; two, the river was very important for transport in the past. The transport was done on rafts. Actually, along the river coast, there are Rafter’s education tour (slo. Splavarska učna pot) signs telling about the history of sailing on rafts in Maribor. There is also a tourist raft that brings the sailing closer to tourists. Unfortunately, the raft starts operating at the end of April and I realized there was the tourist raft on the day I returned home :(

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An interesting geomorphological phenomenon on the Drava in Maribor is Maribor Island. The island is shown is this pic. Now, the island is a real island, a real deal, not just a sandbar. Suffice it to say, real islands are rare on rivers, especially small rivers like Drava. Other than the aqua-centre, which was of course closed in April, the island is pretty much pure wilderness. Actually, there are a lot of snakes there, none of which are poisonous… I think – I was lucky enough to be on the island on a cold cloudy day, so every slithery thing was hiding in its hole.

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And you’ve got a nice view of the dam from the westernmost reach of the island :D

Campus Gosposvetska (cf15)

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This is the campus I stayed at.

The campus is located next to the Faculty of Arts. The Department of Geography is a department of the Faculty of Arts, so I stayed like three minutes away from my classes.

A little trivia here: In my town, the Department of Geography is a part of the Faculty of Science while the University of Belgrade has a whole faculty of geography. My point is that geography is interdisciplinary!

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So this is the Faculty of Arts

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Speaking of the faculty, this is the copy shop of the faculty.
Yeah, a bit “bigger” than ours ;) Mkay, the building of the Faculty of Arts in Maribor is quite bigger than the building of Department of Geography in Zagreb. Furthermore, you might say a faculty is quite bigger than a department anyway. True, only we share the building with the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology, and with Croatian Institute for Social Sciences, so…

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And this is the window of my room :D

The best tea in the galaxy (cf16)

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This is the best tea in the galaxy, the best of all times.

There are many mountain teas, but no tea can beat this one.

Seriously, I don’t give a shit how tea drinking the English are, before they try this shit, they now nothing.

The problem is that it can rarely be found in Croatia despite the closeness of Slovenia and despite the packing actually stating the Croatian importer.

I’ve heard “rumours” lately that the tea has began resurfacing in Croatia, probably because a Croatian tycoon bought the biggest Slovenian food chain.
In any case, the first thing I did in Maribor was emptying a shelf of the tea in a nearby store. Then I emptied the shelves of a few other stores. The employees of the stores kept looking at me strangely, but I did supply meself for winters to come :D Actually, I’m beginning to run low on the shit :( TIME TO VISIT SLOVENIA AGAIN :D

Anyway, remember: it’s 1001 CVET PLANINSKI ČAJ!!!

Final words (cf17)

When I got the email informing me my scholarship for the month had arrived, I checked to whom else the email was sent so I might contact the fellow exchange students. Anyway, the email was sent to three other people. I recognized one was a Montenegrin because his email address ended in Montenegrin top-level domain [.me (true, because of the word me .me domain is often used outside Montenegro and a lot of people don’t even know it’s Montenegrin, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-Montenegrin .me email address; besides the address domain was t-com and I know T-Com is a telecommunications provider in Montenegro)]. I recognized another to be Croatian because she had a common Croatian surname. I couldn’t really place the third student. The top-level domain of her address was .com and her surname did sound Slavic, but I couldn’t be any more precise. I only concluded she was likely a Latin-writing Slav, probably Czech or Slovak, because Cyrillic letter Ч would probably be transcribed to ch in an email address. Latin equivalent of the letter Ч used by most Latin-writing Slavs is Č, which is usually written just as c in email address and the C in her address sounded like Č, not real C so… (you gotta congratulate me on my “smart” deduction now :D )

Anyway, my guess turned out to be pretty accurate. The girl was a Slovak :D And only she really replied. The Montenegrin just told me Yeah, we understand each other (I asked him if we understood each other in Croatian, as I do everyone I think might understand Croatian :D ) and the Croatian didn’t even reply to my email (actually I think I sent two, and she replied to neither).

I did spend some time with the Slovak girl. She studies English and German. A few years back she’d worked on the Croatian island of Pag and she had picked Croatian there. Since she was in Maribor for the whole semester, she picked some Slovenian too though she told me the problem with Slovenian was that she hadn’t had much use for it while staying in Maribor. She communicated with her professors in English or German and most of the students spoke English anyway, On the other hand, she was forced to learn Croatian while she’d been “trapped” on Pag. Her job was to guide Czech and Slovak tourists (yeah, she speaks Czech too, but all the Slovaks do, they even import Czech movie dubs… which means that the Lord of the Rings I watched in Bratislava was in fact in Czech and not Slovak :D ) and she could speak English, and especially German, to other tourists (the vast majority of tourists visiting Croatia are Germans), but that didn’t help her much when talking to other people on Pag.

The girl asked me to teach her Croatian names of months of the year. She told me how certain months have the same name in Czech while others have the name of another month in Croatian. For example, listopad is October in Croatian and November in Czech! Now to make a parallel:
Czech and Slovak in Czechoslovakia could be compared to Serbian and Croatian in Yugoslavia. The difference is, there is more difference between Czech and Slovak than there is between Serbian and Croatian. Anyway, Czech could be related to Serbian because Czech was spoken more in Czechoslovakia and Serbian was spoken more in Yugoslavia and Slovak to Croatian. Yet Czech and Croatian use Slavic names of the months while Serbian and Slovak use classic names of the months (January-, February-, March-like).
And now to return to dubbing again :D Movies and stuff are rarely dubbed in Croatia and Serbia. We use subtitles. The only things we usually do dub are cartoons. Now, Serbs often import these dubs from us. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Serbian dub in Croatia (Bobo, Bil i raja se ne računaju ;) ). Seems that dubs are connected to the names of the months on some level :o

My birthday is on April 22nd, so I treated me Neighbour with a movie. Anyway, we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The movie was quite amazing although I don’t acknowledge Spider-Man without MJ. It was interesting that the movie started the second the room went dark. No ads, no trailers, no nothing! Just the movie :D I’m used to at least 15 minutes of gibberish before the movie, in other words I’m used to being 15 minutes late to a movie, but that ain’t working in Maribor and that’s just great :D I don’t really mind the trailers, they let you see what’s on, but I just hate the ads. I mean, I pay a ticked to be spammed with buy this, buy that, shop here, shop there >:(
Sony must have been a sponsor of the movie or whatever because every single laptop in the movie was Sony Vaio (I have a Sony Vaio :D ).
Funny thing is that we watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the cinema and a few days later there was Spider-Man 2 (from 2004) ×D

Speaking of movies, a Star Wars marathon is currently in progress (one movie per Sunday) and it was in progress when I was in Maribor :D A New Hope was last Sunday (yes, it’s my favourite – The Empire Strikes Back – next Sunday) and so was on my first Sunday in Maribor :D The picture quality was quite bad though, but I was just happy the channel was available. I remember writing an “ad”, on a piece of paper, that I was watching Star Wars that day and anyone who’d like to watch the movie with me was welcome, just had to knock on the door. Nobody came :(

As I said, I only stayed in Maribor for a month. I had to write the master’s, do an internship and prepare meself for Helsinki. In the end, I think I made a wrong decision and should have stayed at least for another month.
At the very least, I should have gone in May instead of April. There was a quite cheap field trip to Brno and Zlin (those in the “shoe” business probably know Zlin’s shoe brand Bat’a, actually the factory was the key reason of the trip), Czechia and the Slovak girl organized a trip to Italy.

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Most importantly, my favourite Croatian band held a concert in the bar in the campus I stayed at on May 6th and there was no entrance fee (prost vstop)! Yes they held a free concert in a place just a few metres from where I slept just six bloody days before!

What else is there to say about Maribor? Oo oi! Maribor is the first place where I saw Finnish vehicle registration :D

CELJE (cf18)

Celje is the third largest city of Slovenia. It is one of the stops of the train from Zagreb to Maribor.

The town is interesting because it lies on four rivers. Kinda like Karlovac, Croatia which lies on five rivers.

There is a mediaeval castle overlooking the town. I really wanted to see the castle and I did. But the way to castle on foot is quite long, even for someone not screwed like meself. I did walk to the castle and I lost much time walking to the castle. Then I stayed at the castle for a few hours and then I spent much time returning to Celje. In the end I missed the early train back (“early” being 5:00 PM). Anyway, because I spent so much time in the castle, I managed to only move around the railway station a bit and not really see the town.

Picture time (cf19) :D

Here are the few pics of the town I took:

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The knight has the coat of arms of Celje on his breastplate. Actually, the stars on the coat of arms are so important to Slovenes that the coat of arms on Slovenian flag has them.

Celjski dom (cf20)

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This is the front of Celjski dom.

Celjski dom was built in the early 20th century as the main seat of Germans in town. It was intended to contrast the Slovenian community centre Narodni dom, which today serves as Celje city hall while Celjski dom is a community centre. Many concerts are held there throughout the year, a theatre is there, as is  the tourist information centre.

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This is the west side of Celjski dom.

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This semaphore intrigued me because it has separate lights for cyclists :D

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I hadn’t encountered a single stray cat cat in Maribor (nor in Helsinki for that matter). I saw this fellow when I was walking to Castle Celje. The kitty in the pic was the only cat I saw in Slovenia (at least last year) and the little furball came straight to me :D

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A street sign I encountered on my way to the castle. Dolarjeva ulica can be translated as Street of the Dollar. Unfortunately, the greenery surrounding the sing ain’t the greenery ;)

Castle Celje (cf21)

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And finally, the castle.

Remember my post about castles in Zagorje? I mentioned the legend of Veronika Desinić concerning the castle Veliki Tabor there. Anyway, Veronika’s lover was from Celje. Actually, the father of her lover was Count Herman II of Celje and this was his castle. The castle plays a vital role in the legend of Veronika Desinić. Castle Celje and Veliki Tabor are intertwined, both in legend and in the real history. After all, the border between Croatia and Slovenia didn’t exist back then and we were all one big (more-or-less) happy family.

SAM_3445 (800x600)An “inside look” of the castle.

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A beautiful view of Celje from the castle

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I bought this medallion in a gift shop in the castle. The inscription (Grofje celjski) says the Counts of Celje and that’s their coat of arms (just without colours :o ). Anyway, I just love to wear this shit. Seriously, I wear it pretty much always :D Definitely the most used souvenir I have ever bought :D

GRAZ (cf22)

No kangaroos
I just had to buy my speech therapist a No kangaroos in Austria magnet because she lived in Australia for 5 years :D

The last week in Maribor was an off week at the Uni, so me and me Neighbour could finally go to Graz.

To get to Graz, we took the same bus I used to come to Maribor. Since the Neighbour speaks German fluently (actually he studies German), I at least found myself a bit useful when talking to the driver (Croatian bus). Though to be honest, me Neighbour would have no trouble communicating with him. After all, we two are managing to communicate without English, but still since the driver was Croatian and I’m Croatian, I did the talk in the bus. The Neighbour was in charge of Graz :D

Anyway, remember how I said Slovenians love to hold vehicles with Croatian registration at the border? Well, we waited for an hour for the bus because it was held at the border. Actually a couple of tourists asked us if it was normal to wait like that (and they were quite disappointed when we arrived in Graz and found out me Neighbour wasn’t from Graz nor an Austrian for that matter :D ). The border between Austria and Slovenia is practically non-existent. I mean, the bus didn’t even slow down at the border. That’s why we arrived back to Maribor accurately to the second (no Croatian border between Austria and Slovenia).

Speaking of the bus and Croatian border, when I was returning home, I heard questions like Do we need passports? then answers like I think not, but I ain’t sure. Mkay, people (Slovenens and Croatians to be precise), I DON’T REMEMBER WHEN WE NEEDED PASSPORTS FOR SLOVENIA (AND VICE VERSA). EVER SINCE I REMEMBER WE COULD ENTER SLOVENIA WITH (VALID) ID CARDS (AND VICE VERSA)!!! NOW THAT WE ARE IN THE EU, WE DO NOT NEED A PASSPORT TO ENTER ANY EU MEMBER. THAT’S RIGHT, WE CAN GO TO EVERY EU MEMBER, INCLUDING SLOVENIA, WITH OUR ID CARDS, AS LONG AS THEY’RE VALID, OF COURSE. YOU CAN GO TO THE UK WITHOUT PASSPORT, YOU CAN GO TO GERMANY WITHOUT PASSPORT, YOU CAN GO TO FINLAND WITHOUT PASSPORT ETC. END OF STORY!!! I went to Estonia without passport. We are citizens of the EU now, for Christ’s sake!
I wonder if the vote for the accession to the EU passed so slimly because people hadn’t known (and still don’t know) stuff like this about the EU… I mean, you just don’t give a shit, but when you come to a border, it’s like Oh my God, what do I do?! Where is my passport?! and even if you hadn’t know that no passports are needed, you could have bloody checked before travelling.

Styria (cf23)

Now like Maribor, Graz is in Styria, a region shared by Austria and Slovenia. The region dates back to the Duchy of Styria of Austrian Empire (later Austri-Hungary). Graz is the capital city of Austrian state Styria and the largest city in Styria (both Austrian and Slovenian) while Maribor is the second largest. Now, Graz has always been important to Slovenes. Even today, there are many Slovenian students at the University of Graz (before I decided to apply for Maribor, I considered Graz, btw), particularly from Maribor and there are many Slovenian workers in Graz.

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Picture time (cf24) :D

So picture time now:

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The first thing we saw in Graz. Bloody hell, this lexicon alone is worth learning German :D

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Colourful buildings :D

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The river Mur in Graz

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An “island” on the Mur in Graz. Not quite like Maribor island, ah? Or any other island for that matter :o I think there’s a cafe on the island.

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Graz City Hall

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Viđu Vinkovce u Grazu :D [Vinkovci is a town in Croatia… and it was written on Croatian tricolour (i.e. red-white-blue) with the Croatian cheque in the middle :D ]

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Aha! 30 % niža cijena. Raja navali u Billu po kilu ćevapa za samo 3,99€, prava sitnica :D

Geek time now (cf25) :D

Me Neighbour and I visited the many game (and comic) shops Graz has to offer.

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You can buy a Super Nintendo for only €65,99 :D

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…or if you prefer something newer, you can buy Nintendo 64 for only €110 :D Note how the console is shiny turquoisely transparent :D

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There is, of course, a lot of SNES and N64 games to choose from, so your “new” console doesn’t get lonely :D

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Screw SNES and N64! Let’s go further back and buy a NES or an Atari game! :D

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…and I’d say the pricing is reasonable :o After all, the game is cheaper than a console (SNES, at least)…
E, ova cijena je prava sitnica :D

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Link! :D I think I saw Drizzt somewhere too though I do not know why the hell I didn’t take a pic of him :o

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And I just took a pic of shelves full of Croatian magazines in a book shop in Graz. Ironically, I didn’t see anything in Slovenian although Austria is neighbouring Slovenia, not Croatia and Graz is much more important to Slovenians than it is to us (Graz is still popular here). Probably because (Serbo)croatian is more spoken than Slovenian and there’s more Croatians than Slovenes.
Actually, there are a lot of Croatian papers and magazines in kiosks in Slovenia too. The only Slovenian thing I remember seeing in Croatia is a daily newspaper Delo :o

I talked about the Maribor Castle, I talked about Castle Celje, but I’m afraid I’m gonna disappoint you now. I didn’t go to Graz Castle because me Neighbour didn’t want to use the lift and the climb is a bit to much for me, at least when I want to see a town and see it in time, so I we, don’t miss the bus :)

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This is definitely the bust buy in Graz :D I wanted Yoda, but they didn’t have Yoda nor did they have Chewie, so an ewok was the next logical choice. When you press the ewok’s belly, it says that ewok gibberish (Oota, chiah gombuh fenguh wuh or something) :D

A MAP FOR THE END (cf26)

Since I had covered a lot of area in this post, I thought it fit to end the post with a map showing the locations (of most) of the stuff I wrote about.

Map


Posted on January 23th, 2015 at 23:54 GMT
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Plonkerness rising

Over the past week, you might have stumbled upon a few other Nelandir’s Independent Tradings Co. To be precise on bedakjen.siterubix.com and bedakjen.blogspot.com.

What’s the deal? Are these just scams or am I “expending the business”?

In short, I made the two sites in question.

I recently (i.e. on 23 Dec 2014) graduated. This makes me, only for a short time I hope, unemployed so any penny would come in handy. I thought Why not make some money online? In addition to current moneyless state I’m in, making money online is a good additional income, no matter the amount of money a person actually earns online. The easiest way to (legally) make money online is through AdSense. Basically, AdSense is a plugin that puts a few adds in your posts. You make money through the number of clicks on your add. As I’m told, the actual amount of money per clicks varies a lot ranging from just a few cents to €100. Anyway, free WordPress blogs don’t offer AdSense, so I was forced to look elsewhere. Upon registering to AdSense, Google offers you to make a website on Blogger for free. Thus bedakjen.blogspot.com was born. Now, Blogger says my blog isn’t eligible for AdSense yet. I probably have to write a few posts first and wait for a bit (6 months I think).

Looking for a way to earn money online, I stumbled upon WealthyAffiliate. Are they a scam? Not really I think, at least not in the true sense of the word. I have certainly found useful what I’ve read there so far. Yet if you ask me, they do play dirty. Namely, they keep bombarding you that as a Starter (free) Member, you only have a taste of Premium for the first seven days and that you should upgrade to premium as soon as possible.
Anyway, I created another site through WealthyAffiliate and that’s bedakjen.siterubix.com. Note that SiteRubix is WordPress in disguise (i.e. the interface is the same) and messages within SiteRubix usually say WordPress instead of SiteRubix. Nevertheless, unlike WordPress free SiteRubix has a few (manageable) plugins. Most importantly, All in One SEO Pack. Another shiny plugin is SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam (before commenting people have to enter a CAPTCHA code, which eliminates a lot of spam). On the other hand, it lacks some shine free WordPress features [e.g. SiteRubix offers only a few free themes (this theme – Twenty Twelve – ain’t among them)].

To sum it all up, I think I’ll keep this blog on WordPress and make a site in a specific niche (probably in GIS) on SiteRubix or Blogger… or somewhere else where I can use AdSense :D Being in specific niche, it will most likely attract more people from the field of the niche, the adds should be niche connected – all in all, more clicks, and hopefully more money :D

Cheers!

P.S. Since I am looking for a job, in case an employer ends up reading this, I graduated geography (GIS to be precise), so if you’re looking for a geographer or a GIS analyst (GIS can be implemented virtually everywhere), please email me on markopb@live.com.
Thanks!


Posted on January 10th, 2015 at 12:14 GMT
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Finnish language

To view this post correctly, I suggest using Unicode (UTF-8) (it should be loaded automatically).

Finnish is, just by being a Finno-Ugric language, a special lingo in Europe where most lingoes are Indo-European.

Finno-Ugric language group is a relatively small language group and the lingoes are mostly spoken in Europe, at least by the number of (native – it’s very hard for a foreigner to master a Finno-Ugric language) speakers. Those two claims can be seen in the three most spoken Finno-Ugric lingoes – Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian. The most spoken of the three is Hungarian (some 14 million speakers) while the third “most” spoken, Estonian, has some 1.3 million speakers. As a comparison, English has around a billion speakers, out of which some 360 million are native.
Although Finno-Ugric languages differ a lot in grammar and structure from their Indo-European neighbours; being in Europe, their vocabulary has been highly influenced by other European (meaning Indo-European) lingoes. Finnish has mostly been influenced by Swedish [a co-official language of Finland (because Swedish-speaking Finns are a very important part of Finnish culture)].

Let’s concentrate on Finnish from now on.
Nevertheless, I’m going to mention Mandarin (the most spoken Chinese language) now. People often claim that Mandarin is the most difficult language on the planet, yet the language has virtually no grammar. In the sense European-language speakers refer to grammar (no plural, no articles, no tenses etc.), of course. Only Chinese script is truly difficult. So why do people say Mandarin is the most difficult language? It is difficult from the perspective of a European language speaker because Chinese differs so much from what we’re used to.
Just to point out I did talk to Chinese at the Summer School.

And what about Finnish? I can pretty surely say that Finnish is the most difficult language on the planet. By that claim, I, of course, mean the most difficult language which is spoken by relatively many people. I’m sure there’s a more difficult language somewhere in Siberia, in the middle of Amazons and/or Africa, but the number of speakers of such language(s) is hardly 5 million.

Before I explain my claim, there are two things that work in Finnish “favour”: the lingo has no grammatical articles [a(n)/the] and has no genders. Indeed, the lack of gender is a real relief when learning a foreign lingo [as is the lack of articles, especially to us whose native lingo lacks articles to begin with (furthermore, the usage of articles varies in languages that do use articles – e.g. Germans would say Ich bin Ingenieur, I am engineer (without an!))]. Genders are one of the most difficult things for German learners (die/der/das).
By no genders, I don’t mean like English, which has it pretty simple where everything, but that with strictly defined sex, is neutral [i.e. everything is “it”, expect when you’re sure something is male or female (e.g. a dog is “it” unless you know he’s Rex, when “it” becomes “he”, or she’s Lilly, when “it” becomes “she”)]. By no genders, I mean really no genders (the pronoun hän means both he, she and it). That’s why Finns often mix genders when speaking a foreign language (not that often in English ’cause pretty much all Finns are fluent in English) (e.g. Finns are known to say Did you see her?! and when you ask them who, they reply That man!). The lack of gender is characteristic to Finno-Ugric lingoes. That’s why Hungarians often say Frontisek je popizdila! :D (Frontisek has been pissed off!) in Croatian, Frontisek being a male name and je popizdila being a female verb form. Croatian has a complex gender system. I mentioned genders in Croatian a bit in the previous post.

Finnish is a synthetic language, meaning suffixes and prefixes are preferred to prepositions and other “additional” words. The language has 15 (some say 14) grammatical cases. As a comparison, English doesn’t really have any cases because various meanings are shaped only through prepositions and there are neither suffixes nor prefixes (i.e. only in, at, on etc. but the word table is always table). “Leftovers” of cases in English are me, him, her, us (dative forms of I, he, she and we). German has four cases (nominative, genitive, dative and accusative) and Croatian has seven (seven is usually considered a lot). Then there are plurals. When you put Finnish grammar together, you get a mess. If you wanna speak Finnish, when learning a new word, you must learn tons of words because the word you have just learned is just nominative singular… or infinitive or such. A single Finnish word can be an entire phrase (e.g. talossanikin means …in my house, too). There is another lovely example: peruspalveluliikelaitoskuntayhtymä which means a public utility of a municipal federation for provision of basic services.

Another tricky thing about Finnish is pronunciation.
Firstly, though, I’d like to point out another thing working in Finnish “favour” :D For that, I’m gonna analyse the Finnish alphabet and spelling:

Finnish spelling is pretty much simple because it’s phonetic (i.e. one letter or a combination of letters corresponds with one sound).
Double letters actually serve a purpose in Finnish [can someone, please, explain to me why letters in the following English words are doubled: follow, Finnish (yet, we have Finland and Fins one bloody N!), Scottish (again Scotland and Scotsone bloody T!) professor, accuse, prodding etc.?!]. Double letters show the sound is long, which is very important in Finnish.

Finnish alphabet:
A B C D E F G H I J K M N O P Q R S (Š) T U V ( W ) Y Z (Ž) Å Ä Ö

I placed Š, W and Ž in brackets because they’re usually considered the variations of letters S, V and Z. I find it interesting, though, that Å, Ä, Ö are alphabetized separately. Furthermore, they’re put at the end of the alphabet which looks odd to me [if alphabetized, diacritics are usually put right after the letter they’re based on (e.g. it’s A B C Č… in Croatian), or such is the practice outside Scandinavia :D ].
Basically, Finnish alphabet is quite “rich” (not as reach as Slovak, of course :D ), but many letters have just an honorary place and are only used in some loanwords and foreign names. Those letters are: B, C, F, G (except in the digraph ng), Q, Š, W, X, Z, Ž and Å. Basically, eleven letters of Finnish alphabet are foreign! Since Finnish spelling is phonetic, this means that many sounds common to other languages are absent from Finnish!

I find the following foreign letters pretty interesting:
F – Although both Finland and Finnish are called Suomi (no /f/!) in Finnish, the letter F (and, thus, the sound /f/) are often associated with Finland. After all, expect of Finland being Finland in English, it’s Finland in Swedish (note that the word is pronounced differently – -land is pronounced like German Land), a co-official language of Finland and the language of Swedish-speaking Finns, who have strong feelings regarding Finland, declaring themselves Finns (never Swedes), and showing patriotic love and loyalty to Finland. Furthermore, .fi is the Internet domain of Finland and FI is the language code of Finnish. Yet, the sound /f/ is foreign to Finnish.
Š and Ž – I must admit that I find these interesting because they’re part of Croatian alphabet. Š should represent the sound /sh/ (like shit) [yeah, /shkoda/ , not /skoda/, is simply clever (I’m, of course, referring to the slogan of Škoda the car brand) :D ] and Ž should represent the sound /zh/ (like usually), but those sounds, like all palatals are foreign to Finns, that’s why they often pronounce the letters /s/ and /z/. For example, when we went to a pub called Pošeidon in Helsinki, a girl from the Summer School staff told us we were going to Poseidon. Well, I guess the god Poseidon makes you wanna pronounce Pošeidon /poseidon/ :D Another girl from the staff told me she had a Croatian friend called Saša (probably short for Aleksandar) and that she could never say his name correctly. Although pretty much all Finns are fluent in English, some don’t pronounce palatals, usually becoming uzually. Interestingly, the person I said couldn’t say Saša, always pronounces palatals in English perfectly. Unlike many people when speaking English, she even pronounces Budapest correctly (S in Budapest should be pronounced /sh/) :D Š and Ž ain’t available on basic Finnish keyboard layout and are, therefore, often replaced with zh and sh (note that Croatians, on the other hand, just type S and Z when Š and Ž ain’t available).
Also, palatals are frequent in Hungarian. In addition to the capital, Budapest, even the words for Hungary (Magyarország) and Hungarian (magyar) include a palatal [gy is pronounced /j/ (like gentle)] in Hungarian.
X – The letter, usually representing two sounds [(/k/ and /s/ (like sex) or /g/ and /z/ (like exodus)], is foreign to many languages and is often replaced with ks or gz (e.g. Croatian seks and egzodus). Likewise, X eventually becomes ks in Finnish and is reserved for relatively few new loanwords. Actually, X can be replaced with ks in most (maybe all, you’ll have to ask a Fin for a definite answer :D ) such words. Therefore, the word taxi can be spelled taksi. Now, similarly like I mentioned Š and Ž, I’m talking about X because of something I find interesting in a comparison between Finland and Croatia. So, there are cabs in Helsinki with Taksi instead of Taxi sign. Taxi is also spelled taksi in Croatian. The letter X ain’t part of Croatian alphabet at all, so there’s no alternate spelling of taksi with X in Croatian. Yet, taxi is always spelled Taxi on Taxi signs in Croatia (in Serbia too I think, and Serbs transcribe everything).

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Taksi sign on a cab in Helsinki

Speaking of Finnish alphabet, I should clarify a few other letters:
J is never ever pronounced as J in English (Finnish lacks palatals, after all), but as /y/ (like yell). This pronunciation of J is common in many other European languages. After all, the letter J evolved from the letter I where I represented the sound /y/ (e.g. Iesus or the more commonly used de iure).
Y is pronounced like German letter Ü. Similarly, Y is often pronounced that way in German (e.g. Gymnasium), but Finns, like other Scandinavians, decided to just abandon Ü and replace all the Üs with Ys… unlike Hungarians and Estonians, who chose to stick with Ü :D
Å is in the alphabet mostly to honour Swedish. It is called “Swedish O”, being pronounced /o/ (like small). You can never see it in Finnish texts, except maybe in a few Swedish loanwords. Because the letter is used often in Swedish, a co-official language, Å is available on basic Finnish keyboard layout, which is the same as Swedish.

So, you can see that many sounds are absent from Finnish. Why is Finnish pronunciation so difficult then? Well, there are the sounds not so common to other lingoes – /ä/, /ö/ and /ü/ (Y). Those do occur in some other lingoes, so a German or a Swedish speaker should have no trouble with those. The problem is combination. When the sounds are combined, they’re virtually impossible to say, especially in a conversation when you’re supposed to say words pretty quickly. For example, umlauts in German (Ä, Ö, Ü) are replaced with an E following the letter that can’t be umlauted (i.e. ae, oe, ue) [this is especially common in Switzerland when capitalizing the first letter (all nouns are capitalized in German like that) because Ä, Ö and Ü can’t be accessed with Shift on Swiss keyboards]. That practice is impossible in Finnish, because vowel combinations such as ae, äe… already exist. Pronouncing Ä and Ö just like /e/ won’t do in Finnish because the meaning of a word can be changed and similar vowels often follow each other (e.g. äe). Sound length is also problematic; the length often changes the meaning (there are relatively few cases where the length changes the meaning in English – shit/sheet, bitch/beach, still/steel are some examples). Good example are the following names: Mari, Maari and Maarii. These women are not namesakes. They have different names. Especially difficult are the vowels /ä/, /ö/ and /ü/. There is a difference between ä and ää (isn’t /ä/ long /e/ anyway? …and there’s ee), there is a difference between ö and öö, and there is a difference between y and yy.
Just want to add here that long /ö/ and /ü/ appear in Hungarian too, but instead of doubling the letter, the length is shown in umlauts becoming double acutes – ő and ű.
In addition to long vowels, Finnish has long consonants. So taka and takka are not pronounced the same. One (taka) means back and the other (takka) means fireplace, so you gotta take care how you pronounce the /k/.

So, yeah, Finnish spelling system is easy, but putting all the letters (sounds) together and pronouncing words is a little bit tough ;)

There, I think I’ve explained why Finnish is very difficult.
I’d like to conclude the post with a quote of a girl from the Summer School staff: I admire people [foreigners] who speak Finnish. I seriously don’t understand how people can speak the language. If it weren’t my mother tongue, there’s no way in hell I’d be able to speak it. Yes, I don’t remember her words exactly, so Maria, if you’re reading this, please tell me what you said exactly.

One last thing: In addition to the mentioned Maria, if any Fin reads this post and finds anything wrong, I beg him to tell me so I can make the necessary amends.

Oh, and why I referred to Hungarian so much: Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric lingo and is somewhat related to Finnish. In addition, Hungary is a neighbouring country (I’m some 115 km away from Hungarian border :D ) and since Croatia was under Hungarian rule for centuries, Croatian vocabulary has been influenced by Hungarian. Basically, Hungarian is the closest Finno-Ugric language to me.

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Hungarian Culture Centre (or something like that) in Helsinki (click on the image to enlarge it).
Remember how I said Hungarian and Finnish are similar? They are ’cause they’re both Finno-Ugric lingoes, but can someone, please, tell me where the fuck is the similarity between Unkarin kulttuuri- ja tiedekeskus (Finnish) and Magyar Kulturális és Tudamányos Kőzpant (Hungarian)?! :D

You can find more information about Finnish here.

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Helsinki Summer School

In August this year, I attended Helsinki Summer School (HSS).

Although this post is not (all) about advertising the Summer School, I don’t know how exactly to name the post because, except Helsinki, I did see other places (less than I’d like to, but still more than one :D ). Naming the post Finland wouldn’t do either ’cause we went to Tallinn, Estonia; and I’ll probably mention Germany a bit to (I switched planes there).

Content

Use Ctrl+F codes to quickly navigate through the rest of the post:
Textual Part (cf01)
– About Helsinki Summer School (cf02)
– About Politics of Nations in Contemporary Europe (cf03)
– Fins and languages (cf04)
Amazing Summer School Race (cf05)
– Touching the sky (cf06)
Picture time (cf07)
– Helsinki (cf08)
– Suomenlinna (cf09)
– Islands and islets of Helsinki (cf10)
– Trams (cf11)
– Nuuksio (cf12)
– Helsinki Zoo (cf13)
– Tallinn (cf14)
Other crap (cf15)
– A few final words about Finland (cf16)

TEXTUAL PART (cf01) :S

I’ll start with text, so the following part of this post will be mostly textual.

About Helsinki Summer School (cf02)

First, lemme tell you about the Summer School. Helsinki Summer School is an annual summer school taking place in August, organized by the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics. The school lasts two and a half weeks (it was from 5th to 21st of August this year). You can choose (rather apply to) lots of courses, from Science Fiction in Literature and Culture to Designing Sustainable Forest Landscape. I attended Politics of Nations in Contemporary Europe.

Most courses, this year, where held at the University of Helsinki, some where held at Aalto University (Arts Marketing and Management, and Physics of Functional Materials) and one at Hanken School of Economics (Service Marketing and Design). Courses have changed over the years and are likely to change in the future. Most, especially those popular, have stayed and are likely to stay in the curriculum. Some include only minor changes. For example, the course I attended had been called Politics of Nations in Europe Today the year before. Today and contemporary are pretty much the same shit. The change was a result of the course getting a new co-ordinator who finds Politics of Nations in Contemporary Europe a better name :D

The University of Helsinki is located in Helsinki city centre; Aalto University is located in Espoo, a city adjoined to Helsinki; and Hanken School of Economics is located in Helsinki, 2 klicks west of the University of Helsinki.

Accommodation suggested by the School is a room in Eurohostel (a hostel on the island east of the south Helsinki harbour, which is in city centre) or a flat (in Pihlajamäki, a neighbourhood well connected with the city centre by public transport, 11 klicks away from the  centre). The school, also, encourages personal accommodation organization. More info can be found here.

This year, a flat in Pihlajamäki was cheaper than a twin room in Eurohostel. Last year, a room in Eurohostel was cheaper, so that might change again in the future.
Advantages of Pihlajamäki that I know of are: only single bed flats, the flats are bigger than the rooms in Eurohostel, free Internet access (you have to bring your own LAN cable though) and a bus line that leads you straight to the Central Railway Station (in the city centre, just a few minutes away from the Uni). These are the advantages of Eurohostel: breakfast every morning (check the pic bellow :D ), reception working hours 24/7, the hostel is in the city centre (a tram line takes you to the Uni in just a few minutes). Internet access ain’t free in Eurohostel, but HSS students can purchase 5-day wi-fi Internet connection for €4. Now, officially wi-fi lasts five days, but I only bought wi-fi two times and could connect to either accounts during the whole 2.5 weeks. I only bought the second account ’cause I’d gotten spooked I might get charged extra on check-out, that the only reason I hadn’t been notified my wi-fi account had expired and I could still use it was so the hostel staff would have an excuse to issue a fine, but Scandinavians ain’t so devious :D Well, I’m not sure how it’s gonna work next year, but this year you could have Internet access for the whole 2.5 weeks for only €4.

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Yes, you can have your breakfast served in bed in Eurohostel. You just had to sleep in the kitchen :D

If a country mate of mine winds up in Helsinki, I would definitely recommend Eurohostel, simply because the hostel is like 400 m away from Croatian embassy :D

10599480_740635239336770_619760763185677503_n Click on the image to enlarge it though I doubt you’re actually going to see all the countries. This picture was taken at the Opening Ceremony. All the countries students this year were from are written on the slide. The bigger the letters of a country, the more people from the country. Now, I dare you to find Croatia! In addition to me, there was only one more Croatian this year, meaining Croatia was written in very small lettering [and there were no other students from ex-Yugoslavia (i.e. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia)] ;)

Update 2015/1/17
I found out recently that there had been a Bosnian attending HSS. He lives in Finland and that’s probably why HSS staff didn’t find him. They probably searched for Bosnia and Herzegovina and he was listed in Finland. I recognized his name when he liked my post in HSS 2014 Facebook group, so it’s likely I’d recognize him if I had seen his nametag. In addition, he was forced to leave the school prior to the official end of the school.

OTU2NDk1NnwyOTk3NXwxMDUwMXwxOTk- A group photo of Helsinki Summer School students 2014 (click on the image to enlarge it) I’m near the left middle pillar. Find me :D

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This is a map of the world (click on the image to enlarge it) on which students can stick a note with their name on the part of the world they’re from. Note how Europe is crowded. That’s ’cause we’re so densly populated, the continent is small and there are 50 UN members in Europe, so it’s really hard not to stick your name on someone else :D If you read this post completely, you can count how many countries I referred to one way or the other. In addition to Finland, I think I mentioned the whole ex-Yugoslavia (i.e. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia), Albania, Italy, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Poland, Estonia, Russia, and Sweden (probably more). That’s 16 there. All of them are in Europe and that’s only a third of the 50 mentioned above.

Before the school ends, you can ask for a certificate of attendance. The certificate looks like this. Aye, a black and white print on a simple A4 format piece of paper. Well, the seal and the signature are blue!

The arrival of a diploma depends on the course. Diplomas are usually sent by mail in October [if you pass (the grades are 5 – excellent, 4 – very good, 3 – good, 2 – acceptable, 1 – poor and 0 – fail), of course]. I was emailed the grade a few weeks earlier.
However, that depends on the grading system of a course. If, for example, you have an essay due till New Year’s, you don’t get a diploma until you write the essay, turn it in and have it graded. So, this is how the the diploma looks like (a little better than the certificate ;) )

Helsinki Summer School staff is great. For any other information, visit Helsinki Summer School homepage.

About Politics of Nations in Contemporary Europe (cf03)

10638972_746411502083880_1524052114_o Me and my classmates

As for my course, the course was interesting. The exam was based on the obligatory reading the School provides you with before the beginning of the School. Likewise, the reading was interesting, except for one article which was full of crap. Well, maybe not full, but when you know at least one of the two “chilling” examples is a lie, you do come to question the overall quality of the article… But, that’s another story.

What I learned from the course is that far right parties [yeah, Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) – like] have risen lately throughout Europe. They have risen very fast. The Sweden Democrats (SD), for example, weren’t taken seriously as a party just a few years ago. Yet on the last Swedish general elections (September 14th, 2014), they won 49 seats in the Parliament, which made them the third strongest party in Sweden. They beat the 4th party by 24 seats! Now, Sweden is often looked upon as the most tolerant country on the planet. This made me realize that we’ve learnt nothing from our past. Instead of “dealing with” the scum at the beginning, we’ve let them, again, become influential. It’s like Hitler’s NSDAP rising to power all over again! Bloody hell, sometimes the words of Timo Tolkki (yeah, a Fin :D ) sound so true :o

I have to “brag” here that a far right party hasn’t entered Croatian Parliament (yet). That yet is an important word even thought I put it in brackets because a drop from 5 to 3% of votes threshold to enter the Parliament has been proposed. Such a drop would definitely allow far rightists to enter the Parliament. In addition, according to how things are going in the rest of Europe, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if far rightists gain large support in the next election. Even now we have a member from a coalition which includes a far right party [namely Croatian Pure Party of Rights (HČSP)]. Luckily, she (note that I emphasized the pronoun she, ’cause far right parties have few female members, mostly because of their male-domination stance towards women) is (rather “was” because she had left the party in the mean time) from the “light” part of the coalition.

I’d, also, like to say that I found surprising how far right parties in Western Europe usually don’t have any irredentist pretensions. For example, Åkesson, from the SD doesn’t mention Åland (more about Åland later in Finns and languages) at all, even though the islands are Swedish-speaking and the people are More Swedish- than Finnish-like. Now, if Åkesson were here, he just wouldn’t be able to let go of Åland.

Since I mentioned sex above, I’m gonna say now that the only two criteria for the co-oridnator of my course in choosing students were that we come from various countries (reasonable, so you get various perspectives) and that there would be an equal number of guys and girls in the course. Now, what the bloody fuck?! You’re either competent or incompetent, good or bad, smart or stupid, courages or a wuss whether you do or don’t have balls in your pants. All of us, students and the co-ordinator alike were great, but choosing students by their sex (that being one of the only two criteria)… Don’t people realize they’re not fighting for gender equality that way? All you do that way is play with “gender” statistics.
I recently defended my master thesis. All the reviewers were of the same sex. Goddamn, how did I manage to survive the defence…
Although I must admit that I had been secretly hoping for a male guinea pig before I’d got him. I had already had a female cat and I live with Mom, so if the piggy was a girl, the women in the house would seriously outnumber me :D

In addition to the co-ordinator, we had four teachers that presented their area of expertise. I find that a very good thing because the teachers were real experts. The only teacher I would change is the one about Russia. Don’t get me wrong, she is an expert, definitely knows what she’s talking about and has personal experience from being in Russia many times, but she’s not Russian. I think it’s a shame that you don’t get a Russian teacher about Russia at a Finnish summer school, Finland bordering Russia [most importantly, Helsinki being close to St. Petersburg (Russian licence plates are the most common foreign plates in Helsinki and you can hear Russian in every corner, most notably at Eurohostel :D ), the second largest and most important Russian city (right after Moscow)]. Mkay, Russian citizens do need a visa for the EU (and the other way around) and tensions in Ukraine are rising, but those shouldn’t be obstacles in education. Besides, those “obstacles” don’t seem to stop all the Russians in Helsinki from coming to Helsinki ;) The co-ordinator told me that this way we have 2 male and 2 female additional teachers… I seriously wouldn’t look in teacher’s pants even if I had a Russian teaching about Russia…

We were divided into groups to do presentations. My group had the presentation entitled Scotland and Greenland Case. Basically, we had to do a presentation about Scottish and Greenlandic self-determination. The reason I’m mentioning this is that Scottish self-determination had been based on the independence referendum held on September 18th. Now, at the time we were doing the presentation (9th-12th of August, just a month before the referendum), polls said that the Yes vote had the least support since the beginning of the campaign (35%), mostly because Alistair Darling, the leader of Better Together (a campaign against the independence), pretty much owned Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland at the time (he resigned on November 19th) and the main proponent of the independence, in the last debate at the time. Public opinion about the independence was all about how well Darling and Salmond did in latest debates. There were big shifts in the opinion on weekly basis.  We ended the “Scotland case” with saying that a lot can happen in month. So, Scotland is still in the UK, but from an almost certain rejection of the independence just a month before, the independence was narrowly rejected.

Finally, a few words about the exam: The grading system included the presentation, activity during class and the final exam. The exam covered the obligatory reading plus an article we were given to analyse during the exam. We had to write, rather type two essays. The keyboards we were provided with were Finnish, of course, though we could (at least, I could on my computer), choose Sami input. meaning that depending on the keyboard layout you’re used to you need to adapt. Most importantly, the exam was an open-book exam, meaning we were provided with the obligatory reading and had Internet connection. Of course, without prior reading, there’s no way in hell you’d be able to get around all that mess. You get an hour to write the essays. You can ask for more time on medical grounds (I was provided with an additional hour).
This might change next year, of course, but should stay the same or roughly the same if Cristian Norocel remains the course co-ordinator.

I want to mention here that the relation between a student and a professor is much more open in Finland. You’re on first name basis with your professors. Our co-ordinator told us Fuck, the weather is crappy, something uptight professors would hardly say (not in front of students at least ;) ). Professors outside Scandinavia often think they’re a special caste or whatever, so this open relationship was quite a welcome change.
Da, Finska je puna Šterčeva ;)

Fins and languages (cf04)

Fins are a special ethnicity with two national languages – Finnish and Swedish. Both of those are official languages of Finland at the country level. 5% of Finnish population (total population is about 5 million) is Swedish-speaking. That being said, most Fins don’t speak Swedish though all of them have some knowledge of Swedish since the lingo is taught at schools. Note that Swedish-speak Fins consider themselves Fins and show patriotic love and loyalty to Finland, not Sweden. At the municipal level, though, only municipalities with the percentage of Swedish-speakers higher than 5% are bilingual. In addition, Swedish is to remain a co-official language in the cities of Helsinki, Turku and Vaasa even if the percentage drops below 5%, which is unlikely in Vaasa. I mean the percentage of Swedish-speaking Fins has been declining constantly for more than a century, but Vaasa is the centre of Ostrobothnia, where most Swedish-speaking Fins live. Basically, most municipalities of Finland are monolingual and the percentage of Swedish-speakers in bilingual municipalities outside Ostrobothnia is very small, so Finland as a whole is pretty much monolingual. Indeed, Swedish can barely be heard in Helsinki which is officially bilingual. So what does bilingualism in Finland mean? Everything in bilingual municipalities must be in both Finnish and Swedish although many Finns don’t actually speak Swedish. A notable exception is Eurohostel where everything is in Finnish, English and Russian (no Swedish).

SAM_4497 (800x600) A bilingual street sign in Helsinki

SAM_3885 (800x600) The destination of a tram line written in Finnish (Munkkiniemi) and Swedish (Munksnäs) in Helsinki

DSC_0281 (800x600) Swedish name of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) on a ferry to Suomenlinna.
Now, I’ve seen -borg (borg means castle in Swedish) being part of Swedish names throughout Helsinki. All that talk about the Borg makes me think that Swedish-speakers want to assimilate us all :D

Åland, an archipelago between Finland and Sweden (Closer to Finland though. You can spit on Åland from Turku), is a special case. Åland is an autonomous region of Finland. The Islands are Swedish-speaking and the sole official language of the Islands is Swedish. Over time, Ålanders have developed their own insular identity separate from Finland and Sweden.

Finnish language is very complex and quite different than its European neighbours (except for Estonian). At first, I thought to write about Finnish here, but the text turned out to be too long, so I decided to make a separate post :D You can read about my thoughts of Finnish here.

Swedish, on the other hand, is nothing special. That is, it is an Indo-European lingo and by that it’s like most other European languages. Basically, not that interesting :D

Now, English is spoken almost by all Fins. And I don’t mean that Fins just speak English. Finland is a non-English speaking country, yet people are fluent English speakers (pretty much the case throughout Nordic countries), so you can’t really get lost in Finland if you speak English. All the information throughout Finland is available in English and before asking a question, you don’t have to ask a stranger in Finland Do you speak English? because it’s expected the stranger speaks English. I mean, occasionally a person in the street tells you No English when you ask a question in English, but that’s rare and at least they can say No English. English is, also, often used for communication between Finnish- and Swedish-speaking Fins. Although both should understand national languages of Finland, since they’re taught national languages at schools – well, Sami isn’t taught in most of Finland, but I’m not sure Sami is considered a national language [I mean, Sami are indigenous people of Finland, but their language(s) are mostly spoken up north (in Lapland) and not by many people (and there’s no one standardized Sami language so Sami speaking “Sami”, in fact often speak different languages, which is quite confusing)] – they often don’t. Not at the level to conduct intermediate to advanced conversation, at least; so they speak English as a compromise. Just as an example, our course co-ordinator was from Swedish-speaking part of Finland (Ostrobothnia to be precise) and he didn’t speak Finnish at all, and spoke English with Finnish-speaking Fins.

De facto, most Fins are bilingual, mostly in Finnish and English; some are multilingual and just a few are truly monolingual.

Amazing Summer School Race (cf05)

HSS has a rich social programme, full of various events, most of which are free of charge. Basically, you catch two birds with one stone – you learn something (earn a diploma of the University of Helsinki) and have fun along the way.

The social programme is constantly being improved by student feedback at the end of the school (each student has to fill a feedback form).

A new event, one which I hope is going to be kept, this year was the Amazing Summer School Race.

You “race” around Helsinki.
We were divided into teams. The objective is to collect as many clues as possible and return to the University main building (by 6 PM if I remember correctly). The team that collects most clues wins. Through collecting clues, you learn about Finnish culture and history, and interact with locals (note that that would hardly be possible if Fins weren’t fluent in English).

Unfortunately, my team took the race a bit to seriously :( Dunno, maybe they thought they were in the Olympics… Anyway, me being screwed, they quickly outpaced me and I was left behind. Luckily a team mate stayed with me, for which I am eternally grateful :) We roamed around Helsinki for an hour or so trying to find our team. Then we returned to the main building and became a new team. Since teams were named after fruit, we were given mandarin. Expect for mandarin being my favourite fruit (I eat way too much of the shit :D luckily, they’re not available throughout the year :( ), my team mate’s native lingo was Mandarin Chinese.

In the end, the seriousness of my original team paid off ’cause they won. However, since after finding each clue, you have to send a selfie of your team and the clue and since we, mandarins, found the first clue with our original team; we were in the original team’s first selfie and, therefore, declared winners too. At first I was thinking of not accepting the prize because of the bitchiness of the original team, but then I saw the prizes: a notebook (paper notebook, not a computer) and a shiny wooden 4 GB USB flash drive (check the pick below) with a magnet in its cap, so the cap can’t fall off. After seeing the flash drive, I thought screw you assholes, this flash drive kicks ass :D

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An Amazing Summer School Race prize – a USB flash drive

Touching the sky (cf06)

Since there are over 2000 km between my town and Helsinki, I had to fly there.

There are no direct flights from Zagreb to Helsinki, so I took connecting flights although when I waited for the plane to take me to Frankfurt in Helsinki, I saw a plane was scheduled to leave for Dubrovnik (yes, King’s Landing) soon. I should’ve just ran into that plane and spend a weekend after the school at a nice Dalmatian beach :D Would avoid missing the plane in Frankfurt anyway.

Anyway, on my way to Helsinki, I switched planes in Munich and on my way back home, I switched planes in Frankfurt.

Now, I, being screwed, had an escort at the airports. The escorts did their job good… expect in Frankfurt. So, I was told to always follow the escort, which I did and it worked good everywhere expect at the Frankfurt airport. I did follow the escort all the time, and they’d taken me all around the airport (note that Frankfurt airport is the biggest airport in Europe, continental Europe at least) until the plane for home left without me… I kept looking at my watch and I did hear the “final call for flight to Zagreb”, but I decided to just wait for the escort because if I had gotten lost in the maze that is Frankfurt airport, I would have been stuck in Frankfurt ’cause missing the flight in that case would have entirely been my fault. Well, not entirely, but try explaining that to the airport staff. Actually, the staff just presumed I didn’t speak German, which I don’t, I just understand enough of the lingo to know that they blamed me for the whole fiasco (es war nicht mein Fehler und Schluss!), but in the end they booked me the next flight to Zagreb. Now, they wouldn’t have done that if missing the previous flight was really my fault. So, I arrived happily home the very same day (and my baggage didn’t get lost!), just at 1:30 PM instead of 11:30 AM. Oh, I waited for the plane in Frankfurt with an elderly Croatian woman from Australia. She said she was only visiting then, but that she had lived in Zagreb back in the sixties. She spoke to me in semi-Croatian. Just wanted to mention that Croatian is so fucked up a language that many people of Croatian origin, especially those born abroad, don’t speak the lingo at all, so Finnish is not a lonely “incomprehensible fellow” out there ;)
At the very least, I spent a few hours in an Imperial base (despite having Republic characters on ToR!) ;)

These are some photos I took, mostly from a plane:

DSC_0224 (800x600) This two-winged bus was my plane to Munich.

Although, I don’t have a pic, a similar, just bigger, bus was my plane from Frankfurt to Zagreb.

SAM_3810 (800x600) This is a pic of Zagreb Airport.

SAM_3826 (800x600) That’s Croatia down there.

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SAM_3843 (800x600) I’m pretty sure that’s Germany (i.e. Bavaria) down there, but it could be Austria :o

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That’s Munich Airport down there.

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And, we’re back on Earth again. This is Helsinki Airport from a bus to take us to the city centre (Central Railway Station to be precise).

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– Helsinki Airport again

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– and again

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– Finland from the air

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– Finnish coulds from the air :D

SAM_4516 (800x600)– clouds above the Baltic Sea from the air

SAM_4520 (800x600)I’m pretty sure that’s Germany down there. I heard passengers mentioning we were above Germany and we arrived to Frankfurt soon afterwards.

SAM_4523 (800x600)Ah, Frankfurt, the most modern city in Europe :D

SAM_4524 (800x600)– Frankfurt again

SAM_4525 (800x600)– and again

SAM_4527 (800x600)– and again

SAM_4529 (800x600)– and the sole pic I managed to take of the “magnificent” Frankfurt airport when I settled in plane for Zagreb and before passengers to my left (those blocking my path to the window) arrived

PICTURE TIME (cf07) :D

After these “amazing” pics from the sky, why not continue with pictures? Oh, I am going to write more text (a short story here, a description of a pic there), but from now on, there are mostly be pics.

Helsinki (cf08)

So here are some pics of Helsinki:

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This is Snellman’s statue. The statue is located near where my course was held. Actually, even the street where the course was held is Snellman’s street. Now, Snellman was strongly against Swedish (despite being a Swedish-speaker himself, even his name reeking of Swedishness – Johan Vilhelm), yet the course was held in Swedish School of Social Science, so Swedish School of Social Science is located in a street named after a guy who was totally against Swedish :o

SAM_3941
This is the Helsinki Olympic stadium. Click on the image to enlarge it and you might just see the five-ringed Olympics symbol in the left, right of the tower.
The stadium is most popular for being the centre of activities in the 1952 Summer Olympics.

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This is Upsenski Cathedral. The cathedral is the main cathedral of the Finnish Orthodox Church and the largest orthodox church in “Western” Europe.
Just like having two official languages, Finland has two state religions: the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church of Finland. The Finnish Orthodox Church may be a state religion, but it ain’t that popular in Finland. Wiki says the church has only 58 000 members (out of 5.5 million citizens of Finland). Our guide kept saying the cathedral was of the Greek Orthodox Church leaving an impression she doesn’t even know the Finnish Orthodox Church exists and if a tour guide of Helsinki is unaware of the existence of the Church…

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This is Helsinki Cathedral. The Helsinki Cathedral, on the other hand, is a cathedral of the Lutheran Church of Finland.
Now, see the bus parked before the cathedral. Says Integral – Novo Mesto (da, občasni prevoz u Helsinkiju :D )? I was quite surprised to see a Slovenian bus that up north. Finland, and Scandinavia in general, being that much north (and being quite expensive), doesn’t see many South Slavs (tourists at least, many of us are workers in Scandinavia, especially Sweden). Mkay, we do come up there occasionally. After all, I was there, but we rarely venture that far with a bus. The distance between my town and Helsinki is 2150 km and Helsinki is even a few klicks farther from Novo Mesto (Novo Mesto being 75 km southwest of my town), so to travel such a distance in a bus is quite bold. Turned out, they were on a Scandinavian tour (Helsinki being only one destination). I guess they could have just rented a Scandinavian bus, but they toured Germany and stuff along the way. An elderly couple wanted to take a pic of me, so they could show their friends they saw a Croatian in Helsinki.
I saw a bus from Maribor later (the bus was parked a few metres east of the spot the bus from Novo Mesto had been parked :D ), but blah, they weren’t “new” then ;) and weren’t that talkative. When I told them they were the second group of Slovenians I had seen in Helsinki, they just told me there were a lot of them (polno ih je)… Speaking of Maribor, Maribor was the first place where I saw a vehicle with Finnish licence plates (yeah, just four months before my time in Finland :o ) :D

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A statue of Alexander II of Russia in front of Helsinki Cathedral

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As I said, Croatian embassy is some 400 m away from Eurohostel :D
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Note how Croatian flag is worn. You can compare it with the EU flag on the left. The EU flag is quite new and the colours are well preserved. The colours on the Croatian flag should be darker in hue. This can especially be seen in blue, which should be a hue similar, if not the same, to the EU blue.

Also, I went to the embassy and it’s like a flat on the top floor. Basically, Croatia has 100 m² of territory in Finland tops ;)
I came there a day after the Croatian Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving is on 5th August and I went to the embassy on the 6th). I wanted to go on Thanksgiving, but they were closed on that day. Anyway, I asked them if they’d roasted a lamb for Thanksgiving and they said Of course not. Now what kind of a Croatian doesn’t roast a lamb on Thanksgiving?! :D And then says of course

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Now, this is more like it. Irish embassy looks like an embassy :D
Irish and Croatian embassies are the only two places in Finland where I saw the flag of the EU, meaning I saw two EU flags more than Finnish flags :D Mkay, I did see a Finnish flag here and there, but mostly only a tourist waving a Finnish flag. There’s even no flag at government buildings. Considering the EU flag, while, other than the EU logos on licence plates :D there are no EU flags flowing in Finland, despite Finland being an EU15 country (yes, one of the stars of the EU flag represents Finland :D ), an EU flag pops up from a toilet in Croatia. Now, we’re not the only EU member covered with EU flags (e.g. same shit in our neighbour Slovenia). However, unlike Slovenia that’s been a member since 2004, we only joined the EU in 2013. Despite the flags, we still don’t have the EU logo on licence plates. There has been talk of a complete redesign of our licence plates, which would include the logo, coming soon, but the talk’s been going on for a year and we still have to stick stickers on a licence plate if we want it to have the EU logo :D

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This is the Finnish National Theatre

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Ah, the flag of Sweden, Finland’s best friend.
Finland used to be under Swedish rule for centuries without any kind of autonomy, but they’re best friends now. Now, Imagine if Croatia and Serbia became best friends one day :o

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The city hall is nearby [actually, the hall can be seen in the previous pic (the white building left of the one with the Swedish flag)].

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Inside the city hall. That’s Helsinki coat of arms up there.

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These three pics are also the city hall indoors. We were quite honoured ’cause people not working in the hall are rarely admitted inside. We attended a Night of Future Possibilities, an event promoting higher education in Helsinki.

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The view of the Finnish Government building from the cathedral.
So, Helsinki Cathedral, Alexander II statue and the Government are all on the Senate Square. Right across the Government building is the main building of the University of Helsinki. The building is identical to the Government building (both from in- and outside). This whole complex was build in the Grand Dutchy of Finland during the reign of Alexander II (hence the statue of him).

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This is the Finnish Parliament building.

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This is the council room of the Finnish Parliament.

Note that there’s no Finnish flag in front of the Government building nor is there one in front of the Parliament building nor in the council room nor did I see a single Finnish flag inside the Finnish Parliament.
Now, not showing the national flag at state institutions, especially the Government and the Parliament is just way odd to me.

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We met Tujia Brax, a former minister of justice of Finland, at the Parliament.
Although I forgot to ask Mrs. Brax in person, I did email her the “flag” question. She gave me the list of Finnish holidays when the flag is flown in- and/or outside the Parliament. In addition, the flag is flown during a visit of a foreign delegation to Finland. Still, the national flag should always be in front of a state institution if you ask me.

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You’re probably asking yourself why the fuck did I take a pic of a pair of seagulls and why would anybody in his right mind post such a pic on his blog… unless the blog is about seagulls :D Actually, I took quite a few pics of gulls and am just posting one. Gulls are pretty bold in Helsinki. The pic was taken at the Central Railway Station and these guys were just calmly roaming the square. Indeed, gulls venture in the heart of the city just like that. Coastal towns in Croatia are indeed full of gulls. But they rarely stray far from the coast. Actually, I haven’t seen them anywhere so deep in the city. They’re probably so “bold” in Helsinki because the city is situated on a peninsula and many islets and small islands. Basically, the coast is not far from any part of the city.

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Now, shouldn’t the guards in front of the Buckingham Palace have such roofs on their posts? :D After all, London can be quite rainy :o

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This is a statue in the South Harbour. Now, a statue of a naked guy colloquially called the Dick (Pimpek) is quite popular in my town. In addition, there’s a fountain of a (male) kid peeing in the city centre I keep passing by. Basically, a dick seems to be a very popular organ.

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Helsinki World Center is quite different from the trade centers in New York [at least from the outside, I have been inside no trade center (neither this one nor either one of New York WTC) so I can’t really say if there are any similarities inside]. Helsinki and New York ain’t the only cities with a trade center, of course. If I remember correctly, there’s one in Graz, Austria. Nevertheless, since I passed by Helsinki WTC before the One World Trade Center was opened in New York, I did kinda feel I was in the past.

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Yes, there are beaches in Scandinavia. Helsinki has several. This is Hietaniemi beach.

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Click on the image to enlarge it and you just might recognize me standing there :D Unfortunately, I wasn’t equipped for swimming when we went to Hietaniemi beach (we didn’t plan to go to the beach, but it was along the way, so we stopped at the beach). I did take a swim in the Baltic Sea (Gulf of Finland to be precise :D ) a week later, but on a crappy beach on Suomenlinna, just so I can say that I swam in the Baltic. The lack of the swimming equipment shouldn’t have stopped me ’cause the guy in the water behind me didn’t have neither a swimming suit nor a towel. He just undressed everything but underpants and jumped in the water :D Now, the water was not freezing (Helsinki being unusually hot at the time probably had a lot to do with the water being warm ;) ), but the water is so unsalty. The Gulf of Finland has salinity between 0.8 and 5.8 ‰ (as a comparison the salinity of the Adriatic Sea is 38-39 ‰).

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Yes, it (a thermometer at the Central Railway station) says 45 °C. The first week in Helsinki was unbelievably hot. I had been checking the forecast for Helsinki before going there and wasn’t all that surprised, but some people, like my roommate came dressed in long sleeves. He was quite shocked as soon as we exited the airport. He was Italian. Italians and other people from the Mediterranean and Central Europe were especially surprised ’cause we had an unusually cool summer. Basically, those temperatures in Helsinki would be considered hot here too and melting summers are expected here. So imagine, when we come from cool weather to extremely hot Scandinavia :o Luckily, the heat was accompanied by a cool breeze. We’re usually not that fortunate down here :(

Suomenlinna (cf09)

So Helsinki is situated on a peninsula and many islets and islands.

One such island is Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna is a fortress island. The fortification of the island started shortly after the Russo-Swedish War of 1741-1743.

The island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

The island can be reached all year round by a ferry for which Helsinki Travel Card (used for buses, trams and metro) is good enough. In addition, there’s another ferry going to the island in summer.

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SAM_4422 (800x600)There are six museums on Suomenlinna. I went to the Museum of War.
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And this is the crappy beach were I took a swim, but at least I can say that I took a swim in the Baltic :D The water was warm, but I guess the salinity at the beach is 0.8 ‰. Goddamn, I swear fresh water lakes are saltier!

Islands and islets of Helsinki (cf10)

We went on a cruise around the Helsinki Archipelago. The cruise is part of the social programme and the archipelago really is beautiful and, therefore, the cruise was beautiful too. Nevertheless, the cruise was labelled Baltic Sea Cruise yet not only that we didn’t leave the Gulf of Finland, we didn’t distance ourselves one klick from the coast of Helsinki. Well, technically the archipelago is in the Baltic see, so they didn’t lie though I’m pretty sure that a cruise around Bracelona or Marseille or, dunno, Genova and so on ain’t considered a Mediterranean Sea cruise. You can see the location of the Gulf of Finland within the Baltic here.

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Aye, the flag in the red frame is Dutch, not Croatian :D

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We had a lohikeitto (Finnish salmon soup) on the cruise. I can honestly say this shit is one of the best things I’ve tasted in my life :D You can find the recipe here. I haven’t tried the recipe, so I can’t guarantee it’s the real deal.
A evo i recepta na Coolinarki :D Nije identičan receptu od lohikeitta na slici (znam da oriđiđi nema mrkve, a sumnjam da Finci stavljaju Vegetu ;) ). Ipak, lohikeitto s Coolinarke je isproban i nisam primijetio ikakvu razliku u okusu od onog koji sam jeo u Helsinkiju :D

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The pic is of pretty bad quality, but the tallest building in Helsinki can be seen.

Trams (cf11)

What the fuck is so special about trams?!

In 2007, Helsinki decided to renew their tram park. A CROTRAM was sent to Helsinki. Those trams make the majority of trams in my town. The reaction of the citizens of Helsinki was negative mostly because the interior was uncomfortable and the company’s offer was rejected.
Mkay interior is far from cosy, but I thought better arrangement of seats wasn’t possible because engines of a low-floor tram have to be somewhere, so I was thinking like What the fuck?! Are Fins just spoilt?! Especially because, unlike for example in Milan, rail tracks in Helsinki have the same dimensions as those in Zagreb. The proof is that the tram shipped to Helsinki was designed for the tracks in Zagreb and used to ride around the town.

But when I saw trams in Helsinki and went inside, I realized that our trams are indeed crappy.
At least one row of seats has a pair of seats instead of a single seat. There are recycle bins inside a tram; there’s a small table between the seats facing each other. Although, I must point out that the drivers are suicidal maniacs, so you can’t really put anything on the table without it ending up on a passenger’s face.
Basically, if low-floor trams in Helsinki can be so cosy, so can those here! End of story!

In additions, even the oldest trams have at least one low-floor entrance (to a part of tram that doesn’t have engines or wheels).

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An old tram (the low-floor portion of the tram is in the red frame)

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Wee, a pubtram! :D

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A low-floor tram in Helsinki

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SAM_3862 (800x600)These two pics show the interior of an old tram. The second shows the low-floor portion of the tram.

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These two show the interior of a low-floor tram

Nuuksio (cf12)

An organized visit to Nuuksio National Park is a part of HSS social programme.

Nuuksio is one of many national parks of Finland. Many endagered species of animals and plants live in the park.

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When he found the frog, our guide proudly said we had just found our first animal of the day. Indeed, he found the little fellow shortly after we’d started the hike.

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This is an ant house. It is approximately 1 metre in height. The guide told us the ants had been building the house for 300 years. This is just the roof actually. Most of the ant house is underground and this “roof” keeps the underground levels warm during winter.

In the end, the only animals we saw that day were the frog, ants and the most dangerous animal of Finland – a mushroom :D

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We had a traditional Finnish sausage for lunch. Turned out to be just a fat frankfurter. Nevertheless, since I love meat, including sausages, I had two :D

I remember an annoying wasp while we were having lunch. We kept saying bloody bee because we didn’t know the word for a wasp ×D Other than the colour of wasps being of a lighter hue than that of bees and them being “better built”; bees are hard working and rarely annoy humans being busy going from flower to flower taking the “ingredients” for honey (and others protecting the hive… and mating with the queen). Wasps, on the other hand, are those nasty little buggers whose only purpose in life seems to be annoying humans and other animals. The sting of a wasp hurts more than the sting of a bee and they do not die after they sting you!

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Finland is called a country of 10 000 lakes (actually there are more than 80 000 lakes in Finland). There’s at least a dozen lakes in Nuuksio. We went canoeing on one and took a swim in the lake.
I thought I wouldn’t go canoeing at all since I can’t even climb a canoe on my own… But, in the end, people pulled out a larger canoe and helped me climb in the middle of it, so I could balance the canoe.

The lake was quite warm. That was because it had been so warm outside for so long and the lake wasn’t big. Actually an Italian was shocked how the water was “hot”. The Italian was from Northern Italy, so she’s used to those big Italian lakes.
The water was of reddish colour because of its bottom

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Someone was bold enough to bring her phone on canoeing.

Helsinki Zoo (cf13)

I planned on going to Tampere on the last Sunday in Helsinki. But things rarely go according to plan, so I went to the zoo (and Suomenlinna) instead.

There’s a special “Zoo Bus” going directly to the zoo from the central railway station. The bus is operated by HRT, the public transport authority in Helsinki, meaning you can use your HRT travel card to take a ride in the Zoo Bus.

During my visit, the zoo celebrated its 125th anniversary

Like I said, Helsinki is located on a peninsula and dozens of islands and islets. Anyway, the zoo is located on an island – the island is strictly reserved for the zoo. That makes Helsinki Zoo kinda unique. Other than that, the zoo is nothing special. Well, there is one other thing I found shiny: literally everything is written in English [along Finnish and Swedish, of course (and Russian if I remember correctly)] (those little stories about animals, the information about animals – everything).
I mean, we do have some things in English (usually in German too) in the zoo in Zagreb, but very few things. Basically, if you don’t understand Croatian (and only a handful of people outside the former Yugoslavia do), all you can do is see the animals… which mostly is the point of a zoo :D

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This pic was taken on the bridge connecting the Zoo Island with the mainland. That’s the island up ahead.

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This is what I meant when I said everything was in English. I took a pic of this text because before going to the Helsinki Zoo, I didn’t know male lions kill the cubs of previous pride leaders.
By the way, seems the Helsinki Zoo supports the united Ireland because the Union Flag is the one before the Acts of Union 1800 (you can read more about the Union Jack here) :D

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A kitty! Cats, like lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars are the first animals I go to see in a zoo. Unfortunately, other than a leopard sleeping on a tree branch, this wildcat was the only cat I saw that day (I didn’t even see a lynx)! All the others were so lazy that they just hid somewhere out of sight. It seems that the heat in Helsinki this August was too much even for the cats native to tropical climate ;)
Actually, feeding of tigers was at 1 PM I think, so I ran too see the tigers. The feeding caught me by surprise and I left my camera on the bench I’d been sitting on. I realized I’d lost the camera as soon I grabbed for it to take pictures of tigers, so I ran back to the bench right away. The camera was already gone. A guy I asked if he’d seen a camera asked me A silver camel?! [yeah, I speak (very) badly]. In the end I found the camera at an info point. The point was only a few metres from where I had lost the camera, but I was smart enough to encircle the whole island! A visitor found the camera and brought it to the info point. If someone found  a lost camera in my town, he’d most likely keep it for himself. Mkay, my camera is a piece of shit, but not on the first glance. Anyway, in the end, I didn’t see even tigers!

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This peacock is freely roaming the zoo. It ain’t the only bird freely roaming the Helsinki Zoo.

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Ah, a sleeping teddy :$ Bears are one of the most dangerous animals of Finland. Actually, not counting mushrooms of course ;) the most dangerous animals of Finland and Croatia are often quoted the same: a wolf, a bear and a lynx – “the dangerous trio”. Yet, every time I’ve seen a bear, it was either sleeping or aimlessly and lazily wandering around. I guess I should count myself lucky :o

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Snowy owls are just so cool! :D

Tallinn (cf14)

A trip to Tallinn, a city right across Helsinki – 80 klicks south, across the Gulf of Finland – is a part of the social programme although you have to reach Tallinn on your own.

Anyway, a trip to Tallinn was part of my course, so I didn’t go to Tallinn as a part of the social programme. The town didn’t impress me all that much (don’t get me wrong, Tallinn is a beautiful town and I’m really glad I’ve had a chance to go there). I would like to visit Tallinn again, but I went to Tallinn only two days before the social programme, so blah.
Mine wasn’t the only course with a trip to Tallinn. A few others have the trip too. One such was the course my country mate attended. They, however, went to Tallinn on a speedboat or whatever. The country mate told me they had almost thrown up several times (80 km on a speedboat!). We, on the other hand, used a ferry, more like a cruise ship with everything but a swimming pool.

We went early in the morning. Our ferry was leaving at 7:30 AM if I remember correctly. We had to come an hour earlier to board the ferry (yeah, it was like a cruise ship even in that aspect). Anyway, we agreed to meet in the lobby of the hostel at 04:45 to reach the harbour in time, but I managed to oversleep. I woke up at 05:15 with a cell phone in my hand, meaning the alarm had gone go off and I just turned it off and ignored it. I dressed up and everything in warp speed, hell I broke the transwarp threshold (I even remembered to take my drug). I had luck with trams because they literally came as soon as I took a step to a stop. In the end, I managed to come to the harbour on time and see the beauty of Tallinn …otherwise I would hardly be writing this shit on my blog ;)

Also, if you’re not an EU citizen and want to travel to Tallinn from Helsinki or to Estonia, in general, from Finland, make sure you have the required papers (EU citizens just need valid ID cards). You can check what you need in your embassy. Since both Finland and Estonia are EU members, you should need nothing special for Estonia. A classmate from the course couldn’t go to Tallinn because his visa, or whatever, expired and he couldn’t leave Finland (well, he probably could have returned to his home country).

We visited Estonian Ministry of Culture and the Museum of Occupations [take not of s because the museum is dedicated to the nazi occupation of Estonia (you can read about it here) and to the Soviet occupation of Estonia (you can read about it here and here), hence the plural].
Now, Estonia is ethnically very diverse. In addition to Estonians, there are many Russians (25 %) (and there are Russian speaking Estonians). Hell, there are even Swedes, Ukranians, Chuvash etc. We attended a lecture about the diversity of Estonia at the Ministry. The lecturer himself was a good example of ethnic diversity of Estonia. His father was a Chuvash and his mother a Russian or something like that. The point is that he was of diverse origin :D He speaks Chuvash, Russian, Estonian, English and maybe other lingo(es) too. Now, him speaking Chuvash is interesting. The Chuvash people come from Chuvashia, Russia. Like the rest of the Russian Federation (Chechenia is a notable exception), Chuvashia has been pretty russificated and Chuvash is not spoken much even in Chuvashia anymore yet a native lingo of our lecturer, from outside Chuvashia, was Chuvash.

I apologize for so much text in picture time :( but I wanted to share the crap I’ve just written about Estonia. Anyway, here are some pics from Tallinn :D

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian Orthdox cathedral

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Wee, Balkani grill :D I do wonder if they have skinless sausages (ćevapi)… hopefully they taste better than the crap in Helsinki.

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Pics of these two oldtimers were taken in the Museum of Occupations

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If I remember correctly and recognize the guy, this is a statue of Lenin. Lenin’s father was Chuvash.

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Mkay, I don’t remember who this guy was and I don’t recognize.
See that green chamber on the right? That was where people would be sent during the Soviet Era when they’d been “naughty”.  Note that the chamber is quite tight. They would keep you in for hours, even a day; but there was no usual time the punishment would last, so people would go crazy not knowing how much longer they would stay. That and you would definitely lose track of time in that thing. I forgot to ask the curator whether people were allowed watches inside :o Hell, maybe they would even be given a clock only to see how slowly the time passed…

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There’s a statue of Lenin in the Museum of Occupations (actually, there are more if I remember correctly) and now it’s time to honour old (though younger than Lenin) Boris outside :D

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Order a takso in Tallinn :D

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I just had to take this pic. A Brazilian and a German watching soccer together. That is quite unusual since the debacle on FIFA 2014 World Cup ;)

OTHER CRAP (cf15)

It’s time for a few fin(n)ishing touches.

I’m gonna write now about various stuff from my time up north. Most of them are from Helsinki, but some ain’t.

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I don’t drink beer, but I seriously considered buying this crap :D

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What I would give to share a Coke with the Tarja ;)

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Evo, hoće da i s tukama dijelim Colu! Iako se tuukka i tuka jako razlikuju na finskom :D Detaljnije o finskom jeziku, uključujući i dupla slova, možeš pročitati ovđekarce.
Now, I guess I should explain the above gibberish a bit. Tuka means turkey (the bird, not the country) in Croatian. We often used the word to insult people (call them names), especially women because tuka is of female gender. Sometimes we use the male version (tukac) though lately we often use tuka for men too. There are, of course, other animals of male gender reserved for men (e.g. konjhorse) :) Anyway, tuka and tuukka are quite different to Fins. You can read more about the Finnish language, including double lettering, here.

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Pepsi Max is my favourite Pepsi and unfortunately, you can’t buy it in Croatia for years. I bought this bottle in Tallinn. It’s a Polish import [just note that Poland is much farther from Estonia than Finland and they import Pepsi Max from Poland (because Finland is unbelievably expensive)]. Anyway, Pepsi Max is sugarless (iliti ga BEZ CUKRA  :D ).

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Speaking of drinks, these are Fantas Zero (a sugarless Fanta) from a fridge in a Helsinki store [da, u Konzumu (vrti dolje)]. Now, the only carbonated sugarless drink in Croatia, in addition to mineral water, of course, is cola, so people suffering from sugar disease can only drink cola if they want a decent carbonated drink. Worse, since not all brands offer a sugarless cola, they’re forced to waste money on Pepsi and Coke (Pepsi and Coke are usually more expensive just for being Pepsi and Coke and other brands that do offer sugarless cola usually suck ass). Also, take note of the price (€1.99 for 0.5L Fanta… that’s very expensive for most Europeans).

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Ideš buraz, BALKAN FEVER i to s VLADIMIROM KEKEZOM na bubnjevima, autohtonim Balkancem iz SRBIJE… Tako čovjek lijepo može doć u Helsinki na cajke :D
Suffice it to say, I’m not overly impressed by this fever. Mostly because I come from the Balkans. It’s just funny how people get excited by what’s foreign to them. Hell, think I’d come to Hawaii Fever if it were organized in my town. Just one thing here: TURBO FOLK IS THE BIGGEST PIECE OF SHIT ON THE PLANET. IT SUCKS ASS AND BALLS. CALLING IT MUSIC IS AN INSULT TO MUSIC (or every other genre if you actually call it music). BE HAPPY YOU DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF CRAP IN YOUR COUNTRY!!! Actually, people from all over the world should express condolence to people from the Balkans for being forced to listen to that crap (we are bombarded with turbo folk from every corner, so we have to listen to it whether we want to or not).

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Most of student cafeterias were closed by the time I was done with the exam. Luckily the one in the main building was still open. When I came and saw skinless sausages (ćevapi), I immediately filled my plate :D but… :$ I don’t care how many Balkan Fevers the chef had been to, he should be sent to Bosnia immediately!

Speaking of eating at student cafeterias in Helsinki. Students here get a card which allows them to eat in cafeterias really cheaply (only students with such a card are allowed to eat in student cafeterias) (the card is colloquially called iksica). You can fill the tray with everything you want and pay almost nothing. Anyway, students in Helsinki have a student discount in the cafeterias, but you have the discount only for one meal. Being used to things in my town, the first time I went to the cafeteria, I filled my tray with everything the cafeteria had to offer and then I brought the tray to the cash register. Suffice it to say, the bill was quite shocking…

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Speaking of skinless sausages, kebab is very popular in Helsinki.

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These are the Finnish doughnuts. They look the same as Croatian doughnuts, but taste like stale Croatian doughnuts (preciznije kao krafne s pretprošlog Fašnika ;) )

Let’s just sum the little Finnish food I’ve mentioned here up. Fins can make a perfect salmon soup, they steal Croatian doughnuts, which go stale on the trip from Croatia to Finland :D and they should spend some time in Bosnia :D

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People in this pic are dancing Humppa, a traditional Finnish dance. The dance looks just like a country dance to me. I mean, you run in circles hopping around and the “running” is accompanied by banjo or a similar instrument. All you lack are wagons surrounding the dance area :D
Anyway, I learned where the country dance originates from :D

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This is how pins of mökkly look at the beginning of the game. Mökkly is a Finnish game where you score points by knocking down the pins. The game is quite tricky because the winner is the player who scores 50 first, but you need to score exactly 50. If you score 51 or more, you’re back to square one. Suffice it to say, a game of mökkly can last for quite some time.
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Since after knocking a pin down, the pin must be brought back up at exactly the same place where it was knocked over to, the pins can be really apart at the end of a game. This is an “after” photo and I’m not sure every pin is in the pic. Check for yourself if you want to know (mölkky has 12 pins, so you can count them.

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I do wonder whether this lady has some connections with Croatia (because of the red and white cheque on her bag) ×D

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So now we know why Fins speak English so good ;)

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Tuomas Holopainen from Nightwish is a huge fan of Disney. Indeed, Finland is full of Donald Duck :D
Just to make something clear, I’ve hated Mickey Mouse ever since the fucking rat decided to fuck Star Wars up! >:(

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Eto, Paška imaju (i to je jako popularan), imaju i Texa, ali nisam vidio ni Alan Forda ni Zagora (čak ni Garfielda) :'(
Tex Willer is a quite popular comic book in Croatia. Yet I thought he ain’t that popular outside Croatia and Italy (his homecountry ;) ). Mkay, Finnish translation doesn’t necessarily mean the cowboy is popular, but they wouldn’t waste money translating it if Fins didn’t like Tex at all ;)

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Lollies! This pic was taken in the store on the ship to Tallinn.

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Click on the pic to enlarge it. This pic was taken in Eurohostel. Why do I get a feeling Eurohostel doesn’t see many Serbs (Kosovo is labelled with Albanian flag ;) )

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Don’t come to the restoraunt at 16 AM (I do wonder what time 16 PM is… what, 28:00?!) because it’s closed at that time!
Also, I’m pretty sure they meant 12 AM (00:00/24:00) because 4 PM (16:00) to 12 PM (12:00/noon) are rather strange work hours. And I’m pretty sure the restaurant was closed at 12 PM :D

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As you know, there are various keyboard layouts for different languages to accommodate the alphabet specific to the language in question [e.g. keys on my keyboard are differently arranged than on yours, that is if you don’t use Croatian layout… or Slovenian or Bosnian (Latin) or Serbian (Latin)… or Montenegrin (Latin) :D ]. Indeed, I already blogged about keyboard layouts. Anyway, on most layouts, the numpad is left alone (expect for decimal dot/coma), but on Finnish layout (probably Swedish too since Finnish and Swedish layouts are the same) / and * on the numpad are changed with ÷ and ×. Basically there’s no slash on the numpad on Finnish keyboards and I’m used to typing slash (/) exclusively on the numpad :D

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The license plates on this vehicle are British, hardly something Finnish, but the point is that the steering wheel is on the left and the UK is popular in Europe for being the only country (in addition to Ireland, of course) where drivers drive on the left side of the road and vehicles have steering wheels on the right ;)

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Todorićevo carstvo seže do Finske :o
Stores (Konzum) of a Croatian tycoon are popular throughout Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia (technically Slovenia too since the mentioned tycoon bought Slovenian store chain Mercator even though the “acquisition” forbid the tycoon from changing the store names in Slovenia, so you can’t see a single Konzum in Slovenia). Anyway, the logo of Konzum is K too. The colours of Konzum are different though (red and green), but still… K markets are very popular in Helsinki. Such an odd coincidence… :D

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Super Konzum na Glavnom kolodvoru! :D
So, Konzum has like small neighbourhood stores (like K market in the previous pic) and big stores labelled Super or Maxi Konzum depending on their size. Super Konzums are big like a mall and are more common (at least in Zagreb). Anyway, this is a pic of a K Supermarket.

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A Finnish movie night is a part of the social programme. Now, my disappointment was the lack of popcorn! As you can see, the cinema had a place to put popcorn on, but there was no bloody popcorn!
About the movie: Prior to the beginning of the Summer School, there was a vote on which movie to watch. All the options were Finnish, of course. Unfortunately, I was too late to cast a vote. Now, of all the options (5 if I remember correctly), the chosen movie was the only offered movie I’d never vote for. I thought Well… it is still watchable, it might even turn out good. Anyway, the movie is Concrete Night (Betoniyö) and it’s such a piece of shit. Seriously, do not watch it! If you do, you’re gonna waste 93 minutes of your life! I don’t remember the details because the movie was so bloody stupid. I do remember, however, that like first 80 minutes of the movie are actually an introduction and that the real plot begins at the end of the movie. I, also, remember many senseless and useless scenes (like a guy peeing in a tram). Just don’t watch it, trust me! I mean, you can watch the crap if you don’t believe me, but I assure you’re gonna waste 93 minutes of your life!
Actually, I have a feeling that the people who voted for the movie pulled a prank on us. Few people came to the movie night. I talked to some people at the cinema who didn’t even know there had been a vote. Basically, if just a few people had shown up and many of those had had no idea there had been a vote, where the hell were those who’d actually voted for the movie?! I’m pretty sure they had known the movie was a piece of shit, decided to vote for it and then not to show up, so we, who had no idea what the movie was like, would end up eating shit :o

A few final words about Finland (cf16)

Finland is the home to many everyday things, like Nokia (which exists in the 23rd Star Trek century ;) ), Linux (see Linus Torvalds and note that Android for mobile devices is a Linux distribution), Angry Birds and not to mention great Finnish bands (Nightwish, Apocalyptica and Stratovarius to name a few).


Posted on December 28th, 2014 at 10:12 GMT
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